As the story opens, King Ahasuerus is looking for a wife. None of the back story of Vashti's removal from the throne is mentioned. He chooses Esther for her beauty.
Esther is prepped by her seven maids for her wedding, which is a glorious affair with a grand feast for all of the guests. Esther's cousin Mordecai overhears a plot to kill the king that night, and warns Esther in time to save the king's life. Even though Mordecai is very loyal to King Ahasuerus, he refuses to bow down to his Grand Vizier, Haman. He tells Haman that as a Jew, he bows only to God.
Haman becomes so angered that he devises a plot to manipulate the king into decreeing to kill all of the Jews. Mordecai hears of this decree and tells Esther that she must go to the king to beg for the lives of her people. She agrees to do this, knowing that anyone who appears before the king uninvited may be put to death.
She and Mordecai fast and pray for three days and nights. When Esther goes before the king, she is not put to death as she had feared. The king spares her life and agrees to attend a banquet that she wishes to prepare for him along with Haman.
Haman is in the process of building a gallows to murder Mordecai, the man who gets under his skin more than any other. Unfortunately for him, the king remembers to honor Mordecai for saving his life, and commissions Haman to fulfill the task.
At the banquet that night, Esther pleads for the lives of her people. The king is furious at anyone who would try to do such a terrible thing. When he finds out that Haman is behind the evil plot, he has him hanged on the very gallows he was building for Mordecai. He then makes Mordecai his new Grand Vizier, who immediately tears up the decree that threatened the lives of the Jews.
What I Like: I'd have to say that my favorite part of the book is the detailed and lovely illustrations. There are even stars in Esther's hair which are very symbolic because of the meaning of her name.
What I Dislike: The retelling of the story of Esther is not true to the Bible. Many liberties are taken with the details that are given. A lot of the depth of the story is lost for this reason. The story of how Esther got to the palace was reduced to three short sentences. I think I was the most disturbed by the representation of Esther's appearance before the king to plead for the lives of her people. When the king first saw Esther, he was filled with anger until Esther fainted. This touched the king's heart, and he spared her life. Another major difference was that Mordecai tore up the evil decree which saved the lives of the Jews. There are many other departures from the Biblical version of Esther.
Overall Rating: Ho hum, unless you are not concerned about the story being Biblically correct.
Age Appeal: 9-12
Publisher Info: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2009; ISBN:080285348X ; Hardcover $17.50.
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Special Info: Here are our reviews of other books by Jenny Koralek.