By Kathy Bloomfield
This month we celebrate Purim, one of the most joyful and festive holidays in the Jewish calendar. Children look forward to Purim as a time for wearing costumes, making loud sounds with their Purim noisemakers and eating hamantashen (literally "Haman's hat"), the delicious three-cornered cookies bursting with tasty fillings. Purim is a time for "feasting and merrymaking, and...an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor" (Esther 9:22).
Purim is not a holiday described in the Torah like Yom Kippur or Passover. In addition, the Book of Esther is the only book of the Jewish Bible that does not mention God. As a result, Purim is celebrated with more of a cultural tone than a religious tone. Even so, as the Jewish people throughout history faced persecution, anti-Semitism and threat in many forms, the story of the triumph of Esther and Mordechai over the wicked Haman became testimony to the fact that a few good people could succeed even when faced with overwhelming evil. The significance of Purim today is to remind us that in spite of the "Hamans of history," the Jewish people continue to survive and thrive around the world. This is certainly a cause for thanksgiving and celebration.
As you decide how you and your family will celebrate Purim this year, here are several books I recommend to bring the spirit of this joyous holiday into your home:
- "When It's Purim" by Edie Stoltz Zolkower: In this charming board book for the youngest child, we join a lively group of forest animals as they make and deliver hamantashen to their friends. The text is in rhyme and the illustrations are delightful. Ages 0-3.
- "It's Purim Time" by Latifa Berry Kropf: This photographic essay of preschool children celebrating Purim is terrific. Watch adorable youngsters dress up in costume for the holiday, make groggers, listen to the Purim story and distribute Purim baskets. Instructions for making a Purim grogger using a soda can and bird seed are in the back of the book. Ages 3-6.
- "Sammy Spider's First Purim" by Sylvia A. Rouss: Children love Sammy Spider. In this edition of Sammy's story, he is learning about Purim and making lots of noise while doing so. Shouting "Mother!" every time he wants her attention, Mrs. Spider must teach him to lower his voice, while also answering his many questions regarding what's going on in the busy and noisy Shapiro household as they prepare for Purim. Ages 3-6.
- "The Queen Who Saved Her People" by Tilda Balsley: Another duty of Purim is to listen to the Book of Esther being read aloud. Using fabulous rhyming text and charming, boldly colored illustrations, this version of Esther's story will delight everyone. Ages 4-8.
Kathy Bloomfield founded the website forwordsbooks: kids books that matter in 2009 to highlight and review kids' books that espouse Jewish values. As a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, Kathy has previewed many children's books published in the past several years. For more information or for book guidance for your family, please email Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.