On Purim, Jews around the world tell the story of Esther, a Jewish woman in ancient Persia who became a queen when she married King Ahashueros. During her reign, an evil advisor, Haman, came up with a plot to destroy the Jews. Queen Esther had to find the courage to reveal her previously-hidden Jewish identity and appeal to the king to change the royal decree that would have killed them. Her example of bravery, of standing up for what’s right, of speaking out on behalf of others – especially when staying quiet would create less personal risk – is one to share with our children. In honor of Purim (which begins Thursday, February 25, at sundown), you can share the stories of Esther and these other women throughout our present and past who are celebrated for their bravery and their willingness to fight on behalf of others. Here are a few “sheroes” and book recommendations to tell their stories:
Queen Esther: a biblical character whose story is told in the Book of Esther and is the inspiration for the Jewish holiday of Purim. You can hear a kid-friendly version of the story in PJ Library’s podcast.
Book for children: “The Story of Queen Esther” by Jenny Koralek, illustrated by Grizelda Holderness
Book for tweens: “The Seventh Handmaiden” by Judith Pransky
Bonus: book for adults: “The Book of V.” by Anna Solomon
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020): a lawyer and Supreme Court Justice who fought for women’s rights and gender equality. She was the second woman and the first Jewish woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Book for children: “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark” by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
Book for tweens: “Who Was Ruth Bader Ginsburg?” by Patricia Brennan Demuth
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) and Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906): leaders in the women’s rights movement in the 19th century, working for the right of women to vote and for the abolition of slavery.
Books for children: “Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote” by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon; “Marching with Aunt Susan: Susan B. Anthony and the Fight for Women’s Suffrage” by Claire Rudolf Murphy, illustrated by Stacey Schuett
Book for tweens: “Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony” by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns
Rosa Parks (1913-2005): a civil rights activist who organized others to work against racial discrimination. In 1955, she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama, which sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott to integrate public transportation in the city.
Book for children: “I Am Rosa Parks” by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Book for tweens: “Rosa Parks: My Story” by Rosa Parks with James Haskins
Greta Thunberg (born 2003): an environmental activist who has worked to address climate change. When she was 15 years old, she sat outside the Swedish Parliament for days to protest and draw attention to the issue. She is now 18 years old and a worldwide voice for global change.
Book for children: “Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet” by Jeanette Winter
Books for tweens: “Greta Thunberg” (Little People, Big Dreams series) by Mª Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Anke Weckmann; “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference” by Greta Thunberg
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): an antislavery, civil rights and women’s rights advocate and traveling preacher who spoke out about her experience of being a slave and on behalf of those who were still denied their freedom and their rights.
Book for children: “My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner” by Ann Turner, illustrated by James Ransome
Book for tweens: “Narrative of Sojourner Truth” by Sojourner Truth and Olive Gilbert
Malala Yousafzai (born 1997): a human rights advocate, with a special focus on the education of women and children in her native Pakistan and around the world. She has been speaking up and speaking out since she was 11 years old, even at great personal risk.
Book for children: “Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights” by Malala Yousafzai, Patricia McCormick, Sarah J. Robbins, illustrated by Joanie Stone
Book for tweens: “I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World” by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick
When you celebrate Purim, you can also enjoy hamantaschen (triangular filled cookies), dress in costume, hear the megillah (the reading of the Book of Esther), share mishloach manot (gifts of food to friends) or give matanot l’evyonim (gifts to charity). Learn more about these ideas and locally-sponsored events at jconnect.org/pj-library-purim-events.