Esther’s Gragger: A Toyshop Tale of Purim
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Esther’s Gragger: A Toyshop Tale of Purim

  • by: Martha Seif Simpson

  • Illustrated by: Durga Yael Bernhand

  • Juvenile Fiction: Holidays & Celebrations / Purim






Date Available:

Available now


4 and up

Grade Level:

Kindergarten – 3rd


8″ x 10″

Page Count:


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Young Esther is given a special gragger (a noisemaker) to celebrate the fun, and sometimes raucous, Jewish festival of Purim. An older boy bullies her to get it for himself, but Esther reacts with great courage and intelligence, her actions reflecting the biblical story on which Purim is based. The lively cast of characters quibble and carouse in a bygone world of warmth, surprise, and generosity. There is even a parade for children only. The appendix helps readers understand the history of Purim, how it is celebrated today, what a “gragger” is, and how to make a simple noisemaker. Following the award-winning The Dreidel that Wouldn’t Spin, author Martha Seif Simpson and illustrator D. Yael Bernhard have again created a new toyshop tale of playful language and images that hint at ancient roots and hidden meanings, which are just waiting for young readers to find. This is a tale ideal for reading aloud for fun, but also for learning.

Martha Seif Simpson is an author and children’s librarian, currently in her twenty-fourth year as head of children’s services at the Stratford Library in Stratford, CT. She is the author of five professional books for teachers and librarians as well as two children’s books: What NOT to Give Your Mom on Mother’s Day and The Dreidel that Wouldn’t Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah. Martha enjoyed celebrating Hanukkah and Purim with her parents and brother while growing up, and sharing these customs with her own children and husband. She lives in Hamden, CT.

Durga Yael Bernhard is the illustrator, designer, and author of numerous award-winning children’s books. She brings a variety of influences to her work, including African art, studies in Eastern and Western religion, and a love of nature that fills her daily life in the Catskill Mountains of NY where she makes her home. Ms. Bernhard is also a fine-art painter, an arts-in-ed teacher, and a bnei mitzvah tutor. Her titles include Never Say a Mean Word Again and The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin.


  • Gold Medal in the “Children’s Fiction” category of the 2020 Midwest Book Awards
  • Silver Medal in the “Children’s Picture Books” category of the 2020 Midwest Book Awards
  • Finalist for the 2020 Connecticut Book Awards in the “Young Readers/Picture Book”
  • Finalist in the “Children Mind/Body/Spirituality” category of the 2020 Best Book Awards


  • “It’s not often that you get a toy shop, a brave girl, a caring brother, a powerful community outcry, a parade, and teachings about a religious holiday all rolled into one. Durga Yael Bernhard, who also illustrated Never Say a Mean Word Again, brings all these elements alive with festive illustrations reminiscent of the art of Tomie dePaola. And that’s not all: Esther’s Gragger has pages at the end devoted to explaining what Purim is, how it is practiced today, what graggers are, and how to make your own noisemakers. You may find yourself, along with your favorite 4-8 year old, filling small containers with bells, pebbles, or dried beans and celebrating Purim by making some noise of your own!”

    – Spirituality & Practice

  • “Explore the history and traditions of the Jewish holiday of Purim in this modern-day tale of wisdom and courage set in a village toy shop where, just like Queen Esther, a little girl stands up for what is right. Create your own noisemaker, or gragger, from an old milk carton or make a tambourine from paper plates and join in the lively celebration, filled with food, drinks, friends, family, and lots of love and laughter.”

    – Pallas Gates McCorquodale

    , from a review in Foreword Reviews

  • “… Esther’s Gragger: A Toyshop Tale of Purim by author Martha Seif Simpson and illustrator Yael Bernhard is a picturebook tale that is ideal for reading aloud for fun, also for teaching children ages 4-8 about the Jewish holiday of Purim. Entertaining and informative, Esther’s Gragger is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.”

    – Midwest Book Reviews

    , (Reviewer’s Bookwatch)

  • “Esther’s Gragger: A Toyshop Tale of Purim … tells of Esther’s dilemma when she earns a special whirling noisemaker (a “gragger”) from delivering charitable gifts on Purim. She’s ready to carry her treasure in the Purim parade; but first she must face a bully who seeks to steal her prize. Kids with good reading skills will appreciate a close inspection of Purim celebrations, challenges to peace and wellbeing, and a warm story of overcoming adversity.”

    – Midwest Book Reviews

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  • Author Martha Seif Simpson wrote an excellent discussion guide for this book. The document is in the pdf format and can be viewed or downloaded hereRemember: it is probably best to save the file to your computer and then print it out, rather than printing it out from the web page display itself.
  • Illustrator D. Yael Bernhard has created two coloring pages of beautiful graggers featured in the story. Click on either of these links to view and/or download a coloring page of the Queen Esther gragger, or of the Mordecai gragger.
  • Martha Seif Simpson has also created a crossword puzzle that can be a fun activity to assist teachers or parents who are introducing Esther’s Gragger to children. You can follow this first link to view or download the blank crossword puzzle, and this second one to view or download the answer key to the crossword puzzle.
  • Events and Extras

    • The Connecticut Post conducted an interview with author Martha Seif Simpson in which she discusses many interesting facts behind her creation of the story in Esther’s Gragger. You can read it by going to this link.
    • The author’s website includes a webpage of events, which is regularly updated, of upcoming events at which she will appear. Some of these will be related to Esther’s Gragger.
    • The illustrator, D. Yael Bernhard, also maintains an active website. You can click here to see her page on Esther’s Gragger.

Sample Page Spreads from This Book

Click on the image below to see a larger image and a caption for this and any additional page spreads.