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, the 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.