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Monthly Book Discussions > June Picture Book 2013 Discussion: Queen Esther the Morning Star by Mordicai Gerstein

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message 1: by Ronyell, Your Humble Creator! (new)

Ronyell (rabbitearsblog) | 688 comments Mod
Hello everyone! This month's winner for the June Picture Book monthly book read is Queen Esther the Morning Star by Mordicai Gerstein by Mordicai Gerstein. Please feel free to discuss about what you liked or hated about this book!


message 2: by Manybooks (last edited Jun 01, 2013 05:40AM) (new)

Manybooks | 147 comments Although I generally quite enjoyed Mordicai Gerstein's Queen Esther The Morning Star, this is definitely a book for older children above the age of eight or even ten. The topics presented (abuse of power, vengeance, racial hatred, persecution) are problematic and might (no, should) require discussion and explanation; they could also prove frightening for younger or sensitive children.

I think this book works well for describing the Old Testament story of Esther and the origins of the Hebrew holiday of Purim, especially if complemented by discussions on or about some of the controversial topics mentioned above. For example, one could discuss the fact that while King Ahasuerus has absolute power (he could choose any woman for his wife, Esther really had no choice in the matter), he is also foolish and thus easily manipulated and influenced by clever schemers (such as Haman and his wife).

Another topic for discussion might be that courage, faith and fortitude, even in the face of desperate danger, will often be rewarded in the end. Although warning the king of the plot against him might lead Mordecai into danger, and although he, himself has ample reason to be mistrustful of the monarch, Mordecai warns King Ahasuerus of the plot to poison him, not only saving the king's life, but also being rewarded for this deed by becoming prime minister (while Mordecai's erstwhile adversary and enemy Haman is hung, instead of the Jews he wanted to destroy).

And Queen Esther, although afraid of going unbidden to her husband, the king, is brave enough to perchance provoke Ahasuerus' anger in order to save her people. While I do not particularly like the vengeance part, I am also glad that Mordicai Gerstein decided not to sugar-coat this aspect of the biblical story. Such historical (or biblical) details make for interesting and educational discussions, while Mordecai and Esther's actions show that being brave, doing the courageous, the right thing, will generally result in more lasting and beneficial rewards than scheming, hatred and prejudice.

I cannot say that I particularly like the illustrations. I do think that for the most part, they work well enough for the story, but I really believe that Haman and his wife are portrayed in a much too creepy and "evil" manner (and even in a potentially racially suspect manner, as the whole family is depicted with similar traits, traits that seem almost genetically, racially predisposed). I know that they are, indeed, evil and scheming, but I kind of think that Haman was likely such a seemingly successful schemer for so long because he was able to convince and control the king. I somehow doubt that a person looking like some sort of creepy, evil magician would have been able to so completely hoodwink a monarch who seemed to relish pleasure, beauty and grace. In my opinion, Haman and his wife's evil nature would have been all the more frightening and believable if they had looked fair on the outside, but been rotten to the core on the inside.

And I am also not the only one who has noticed and felt uncomfortable with the way Haman and his entire family has been depicted in this book. Other GR friends have also noticed that Haman and his family look witch-like (and some, like my GR friend Abigail have especially noticed that Haman and his family are depicted as racially suspect, in fact, Abigail has pointed out that the depictions of Haman and his family bear a striking, unfortunate and rather sinister resemblance to the horrid depictions of supposedly "Jewish" traits in Nazi and neo-Nazi illustrations). Now, of course, knowing the story, and the author, that is likely simply unfortunate and not deliberate, but by making Haman and his entire family appear so physically repugnant, Gerstein has, at least to an extent, continued the rather vile and suspect practice of portraying stereotypical, potentially racially suspect physcial traits (and showing that someone who looks a certain way must therefore also be or act in a certain way). And at least for me, less stereotypical depictions of Haman and his family would have definitely made Queen Esther the Morning Star a much better and more enjoyable and readable book.


message 3: by Ronyell, Your Humble Creator! (new)

Ronyell (rabbitearsblog) | 688 comments Mod
Awesome review Gundula! I gave this book a four star rating because I didn't like the vengeance plot going on since it took away from the point of the story.


message 4: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 147 comments Ronyell wrote: "Awesome review Gundula! I gave this book a four star rating because I didn't like the vengeance plot going on since it took away from the point of the story."

But the vengeance is actually part of the biblical story, so leaving it out would not have been acceptable in my opinion (my main beef was and is with the illustrations of Haman and his family, that they looked too creepy, almost racially stereotypical).


message 5: by Ronyell, Your Humble Creator! (new)

Ronyell (rabbitearsblog) | 688 comments Mod
Gundula wrote: "Ronyell wrote: "Awesome review Gundula! I gave this book a four star rating because I didn't like the vengeance plot going on since it took away from the point of the story."

But the vengeance is ..."


That is true, especially with the plot trying to show how the Jewish population were being treated during that time. As for the illustrations, I agree that having the villains look ugly all the time does get a bit offensive after awhile.


message 6: by Manybooks (last edited Jun 02, 2013 06:41AM) (new)

Manybooks | 147 comments Ronyell wrote: "Gundula wrote: "Ronyell wrote: "Awesome review Gundula! I gave this book a four star rating because I didn't like the vengeance plot going on since it took away from the point of the story."

But t..."


If Haman had just looked ugly, while I still think that this would have been kind of stereotypical and naive (sometimes the biggest villains are sweet faced but rotten to the core, and also, it is problematic and potentially abusive in and of itself to assume that someone who is physically ugly must therefore by extension also be morally and ethically ugly and corrupt), the fact that Haman and his family did not just look creepy and ugly, but kind of had the type of features that could be seen as racially exaggerated, as exaggerated genetic or racial traits, is even more bothersome.


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