Es­ther’s Grag­ger A Toyshop Tale of Purim

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Children’s Books - Au­thor In­ter­view MARTHA SEIF SIMP­SON

978-1-937786-75-5, Wis­dom Tales, wis­dom­tale­spress.com

How did you get the idea for your story?

Af­ter The Drei­del That Wouldn’t Spin: A

Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah was pub­lished, I wanted to write an­other Toyshop Tale. I im­me­di­ately thought of a grag­ger, a toy that is used as part of the Purim fes­tiv­i­ties. These whirling noise­mak­ers come in an end­less va­ri­ety of styles and de­signs, which would pro­vide an­other great op­por­tu­nity for the il­lus­tra­tor, Durga Yael Bern­hard. And you can see the beau­ti­ful re­sults!

To me, the bib­li­cal Story of Es­ther has al­ways been about how a brave young woman stood up to a bully in or­der to save her peo­ple from destruc­tion. But how could I trans­late this theme into a story for chil­dren? Sadly, bul­lies still ex­ist and many kids en­counter them. Dur­ing Purim ser­vices, when the Megillah is read, we spin grag­gers to drown out the name of wicked Ha­man when­ever it’s men­tioned in a sym­bolic at­tempt to erase evil. That gave me the idea to have a girl named Es­ther use the noise of a grag­ger to chase off a large boy who threat­ened her.

The bib­li­cal Es­ther is one of the great heroes of Jewish his­tory. Why did her story res­onate with you?

Men tend to dom­i­nate most bib­li­cal sto­ries, with woman gen­er­ally in sup­port­ing roles. But Es­ther is truly the hero of this tale. She risked her own life to tell her hus­band, King Aha­suerus, about his top ad­vi­sor’s plot to kill the Jews.

Read­ers of all re­li­gions will em­brace the stand-up-to-bul­lies mes­sage, es­pe­cially in a story with such a strong fe­male pro­tag­o­nist. Was this your hope?

Es­ther’s courage pro­vides a won­der­ful role model for chil­dren who wit­ness bul­ly­ing be­hav­ior. In to­day’s jar­gon, she acted as an up­stander, not a by­stander. And when he saw what was happening with the chil­dren, the shop­keeper joined them to stand against the bully, as did ev­ery­one else in the area. To­gether, they used a non-vi­o­lent method to em­bar­rass and chase off an op­pres­sor.

I hope this story will res­onate with read­ers of all be­liefs, cul­tures, and life­styles. To quote the shop­keeper, “We must never be afraid to take a stand against cru­elty.”

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