A Jewish holiday celebration takes on contemporary relevance.
On Purim Jews read the Megillah, the story of Esther, which recounts how she saved the Jews of Persia from the evil Haman. Each time Haman’s name is mentioned, graggers, or noisemakers, are rotated by hand so that their noise drowns out his name. In this tale, a shopkeeper has arranged a display of the graggers, and a boy is almost ready to purchase one for his sister, also named Esther. He just needs more money. Then another boy enters the shop and rudely demands the very gragger the protagonist (whom readers eventually learn is named Ben) has selected. The shopkeeper sets it aside for the first lad, though. As Ben and Esther, both dressed in costumes for a Purim parade, leave the store they are accosted by the bully. Soon, Esther, joined by the shopkeeper and passers-by, enters into the spirit of the holiday, and they all spin their noisemakers, creating so much “racket” and “commotion” that the bully runs off. The shopkeeper uses the occasion to deliver a message: namely “we must never be afraid to take a stand against cruelty.” It is certainly a timely lesson, albeit delivered purposefully and at somewhat greater length than a typical picture book. Colorful illustrations are set in an indeterminate time and place with a largely Jewish, light-skinned cast. Four pages of backmatter offer further information on Purim, its observance, and graggers as well as instructions on how to make homemade noisemakers.
Satisfyingly and appropriately, community spirit defeats a bully. (Picture book. 5-8)