Monday, April 21, 2008

On Purim

Author: Fishman, Cathy Goldberg
Illustrator: Hall, Melanie H.
Publisher and Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000
Genre: Multicultural, Picture Book
Age Range: 1st-4th grades

Summary: This book tells about a family as they celebrate the traditions of Purim by dressing up in costumes and wearing masks. They also read about Esther in the Bible and how she saved the Jewish people. In the book they tell the story of how Esther saved the lives of many Jewish people when she married King Ahasuerus and convinced him not to have the Jews killed like the king's chief advisor, Haman, wanted. After the story the grandmother makes hamantashen, a pastry shaped like the hat Haman wore. They then make shalach manot, gift baskets, for each other with hamantashen, candy, and fruit inside. The family also goes to a carnival and parade for Purim to celebrate. On the evening before the 14th of Adar, they dress in their costumes and go to synagogue. In the synagogue, the family gives tzedakah, or charity, and listen as the Rabbi chants from the Megillah.

Response: I really enjoyed this book because I was able to learn something myself from this! I have never heard of the Jewish holiday of Purim, and thought it was really interesting. Every part of what they do to celebrate this holiday has its own significance to the original story of Esther saving her people from the hand of Haman (boo! boo!). See, in the story they make noise with their groggers and say "boo! boo!" at the mention of Haman's name, who tried to get rid of the Jews in Persia. The grogger reminds me of a noisemaker you see people playing with on New Years.

The illustrations are done in collagraph and mixed media. I love the use of color in the illustrations for this book. It portrays the holiday as the happy and victorious time that it truly is for the Jewish people. The only 'dark' illustration is on the page about Haman. Here deeper purples and more black is included to portray this man's disdain toward the Jews.

Teaching Ideas: Even though not all students in each classroom will be Jewish or would celebrate Purim, this is a good book to bring it to show the different traditions of other cultures and religions. I think it would be better to use in addition to a study of holidays in other cultures or religions to show the students how different some people live.

Also, if the children (a.k.a. parents) are alright with experiencing part of this culture, you could make Hamantashen as a class with the recipe I found below!

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