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The Story of Purim Isn’t Kid Friendly — But These 6 Books Are

12.03.2019

As a Jewish holiday approaches — any Jewish holiday — many parents and grandparents look forward to reading with children books about what to expect.

But Purim poses something of a problem. The story of this festival includes Jewish courage and triumph, but it also features explicit violence, which is difficult to separate from the exciting tale. There are winners and losers — and the losers don’t fare well in the end.

Basically, Purim is a holiday about Jewish courage and survival, with some hard to avoid sexism as a basic part of the plot. Purim is often identified as the Jewish holiday in which a woman plays a starring role, and so, little girls are encouraged to dress as the bold queen who puts her life on the line to save her people. And yet, parents need to get around the difficulty of explaining to kids that Queen Esther’s heroism is expressed through submissiveness and physical beauty. Esther becomes the Persian queen only after King Ahasuerus throws out his previous wife, Vashti, because she committed the grave sin of refusing to show up when he called for her. This insecure male naturally believes his royal minister, who points out that Vashti’s chutzpah will encourage other women to disobey their husbands.

Then there are the gallows, first intended for Esther’s cousin, Mordechai, and later used to punish Haman. Yes, we know that the element of retribution is essential to the story. Once King Ahasuerus learns that Haman intends to kill Mordechai —  the very Jew who had saved the king’s life by revealing a conspiracy against him — the tables turn and the Jews of Persia earn the right to punish their tormentors. Purim proves that Jews did not have to be the perennial targets of hatred and fate, but explaining that aspect of the holiday to the youngest readers can be challenging.

Fortunately, there are many wonderful books out there that festive aspects of the holiday, such as dressing in costumes, and enjoying delicious hamantaschen. The terrifying parts of the tale can wait for later, when kids are old enough to understand the history behind them. Following are six outstanding, age-appropriate recommendations.

Read Kveller's Purim Book Guide here.

Written by: Emily Schneider