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Showing posts with label Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Show all posts

7.07.2011

The Story of Queen Esther (2009)

Retold by Jenny Koralek

Illustrated by Grizelda Holderness

Pastels

Text set in Angie

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

After I indexed Raisel's Riddle last week, which uses the Festival of Purim as its backdrop, I thought it would be a great idea to refresh myself with the story of Esther.

It's a story which seems the inversion of most other tales, as it begins with the typical Happily Ever After part and then unravels from there. A rich and powerful king named Ahasuerus chooses for himself the most beautiful woman in his kingdom to be his wife. Her name is Esther, and Grizelda has indeed made her very beautiful. Her hair is long and black, inexplicably filled with the stars and the moon. She seems very happy, with no misgivings, and spends her time being bathed and prepared for the wedding. All is well and good, except... she's a Jew! D'oh!

I love how Grizelda illustrates the story, with many pages containing several scenes happening concurrently. In one spread of the king's castle, we see men snickering and plotting murderously in an upper window of the tower. In two other windows, Mordecai and Esther communicate by carrier pigeon, while on the castle roof, the King hands his servant Haman his royal ring of command.

It is a strange scene, I think, when Haman suggests to the King, "Your Majesty, the Jews do not obey some of your laws. Why don't you get rid of them?"

"Do what you like with them," is the King's lackadaisical response.

Later, we are meant to side with the King when, learning of the plot to kill the Jews, says with feigned innocence, "By whose order? Who would do such a terrible thing?"

Give me a break, King Ahasuerus. What exactly did you think was going to happen when you agreed with Haman in getting rid of the Jews? It's an irony which the story does not explore. All that matters is that Haman is executed while his weeping wife watches, Esther is one beautiful lady and, "to this day, a noisy, happy feast, the Feast of Purim, is held every year to remember how Queen Esther saved the lives of her people."

I've read some other reviews of this book, and they all agree that it is pretty liberal with its interpretation of the actual Biblical story, oversimplifying and changing several details. Ah well, I guess I'll have to find and read other versions!
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Click here for more versions of the Queen Esther story!
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Click here for more Biblical Stories from the Old Testament!
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Click here for Jewish folktales!

6.04.2011

The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights (2010)

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrated by Tim Ladwig

Watercolor and pastel on Twinrocket tinted watercolor paper

Typeset in Adobe Garamond Pro

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

"Since the first African-American churches were founded in the 18th Century, black religious organizations have brought biblical values to bear on the freedom struggle," begins the book in a nice introductory note, explaining the pairing of the text of Matthew 5:3-12 - commonly referred to as the Beatitudes - with snapshot portraits of scenes from the history of Civil Rights.

We start in the darkened hold of a slave ship - one of the slaves sitting up straight - staring into a shaft of light beaming through the ceiling. "I am the Lord your God," begins the narrative. "I was with the Africans who were torn from the Motherland and cramped in holds of ships on the Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas. I heard the chant Kum ba ya, kum ba ya."

Running along the bottom of the two-page spread is the first of the beatitudes, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."

In direct contrast with the first image, the next is filled with light. A family claps their hands in a sun-drenched church:

I was with Richard Allen, Absalom Jones and James Varick, who founded churches where African Americans could praise the Lord and shout "Hallelujah!" I rang the church bells.

From there we move chronologically through American history. Harriet Tubman against a star-filled night. Marian Anderson standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Rosa Parks, poor Emmett Till.

I had to pause at the image of young Ruby Bridges, wide-eyed between the shoulders of the law - and in particular, the faces twisted in rage and hate filling the pages behind her which Ladwig very menacingly illustrates. "Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you."

Of all the historical names listed, Ruby Bridges was one of only two with a birth date and no death date. Somewhere, Ruby is 57 years old. The only other still living subject - born just seven years after Ruby Bridges - is Barack Obama.

I was with [him] when he took his oath as President of the United States. I was the Bible where he placed his hand.

From there, finally, we are transported back a hundred years or more, as a group of men, women and children wade into the waters, the sky orange with dawn. "The holy water is the stream of humanity," concludes Weatherford. "Drink, breathe and be free."
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