The Queen Who Saved Her People

Til­da Bal­s­ley; Ilene Richard, illus.
  • Review
By – August 31, 2011
Gen­tle humor, clever rhyme, dynam­ic illus­tra­tions, and bib­li­cal accu­ra­cy deliv­er an ener­getic, age-appro­pri­ate hol­i­day sto­ry through a dex­ter­ous nar­ra­tive that con­verts to a dra­ma script. Author Til­da Bal­s­ley gifts the pic­ture book crowd, their teach­ers, and par­ents with an invit­ing look at Purim’s bib­li­cal and hol­i­day lore. Her com­pact tale holds atten­tion through strong, well described char­ac­ters who are dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ties able to shine in the play for­mat, achieved through the smart, but sim­ple, use of col­or in each character’s dia­logue. With­out stray­ing from Megillat Esther, Bal­s­ley enchants with hero­ine Esther, goody Mordechai, bad­dy Haman, flawed human King Ahasheurus, and a rich sup­port­ing group of oth­ers from Vashti to Haman’s wife. The nar­ra­tor keeps motive and action mov­ing in order­ly fash­ion in both the nar­ra­tive and dra­mat­ic form with­out spoil­ing the fun. The rhymes are excel­lent — unforced while care­ful­ly main­tain­ing estab­lished rhythm. The lay­out high­lights fun asides in speech bal­loons to under­line or embroi­der the sto­ry. Bal­s­ley ini­ti­at­ed this for­mat in her 2008 Let My Peo­ple Go, where she was teamed with illus­tra­tor Ilene Richard. As in their ear­li­er book, here Richard’s illus­tra­tions are charm­ing, mobile, active, and fla­vored with Near East­ern sen­si­bil­i­ty. They sup­port the text while imag­in­ing what these his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ters looked like and did. This pic­ture book is well focused, well thought-out, and well deliv­ered. For ages 5 – 9.

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

Discussion Questions