Monday, March 1, 2010

Graphic Novel Monday: Megillat Esther, by J.T. Waldman



Megillat Esther, by J.T. Waldman. Published 2006 by Jewish Publication Society of America. Paperback.

Click here to buy The Megillat Esther via IndieBound.org. I'm an IndieBound affiliate and receive a small commission on sales.

Since the Jewish holiday of Purim is here, I thought it would be fun to talk about the graphic version of the Megillat Esther, the story of how Queen Esther saved the Jews from slaughter by King Achashverosh and his advisor, Haman, in ancient Persia, the story which forms the basis for the holiday. Not your standard children's-book interpretation, J.T. Waldman's version of Esther's story is full of intrigue, conspiracies and reversals, not the least of which is the physical reversal of the text which occurs halfway through. At this point, the reader needs to flip the book over and read it right to left, all the better for the Hebrew but possibly jarring for readers unfamiliar with reading Hebrew or (in my case) Japanese manga. But I digress.

This Megillat Esther is a treasure- a beautiful and thoughtful retelling of the Book of Esther. The story is told in English and beautifully-lettered Hebrew, and includes rabbinic footnotes and a bibliography, as well as a section explaining the importance of citations and explaining the term midrash, the stories that expand on the Hebrew Bible. This section seems aimed at children, but this is no children's book. Waldman's rich, detailed black and white illustrations reward careful attention and a slow, deliberate pace, and there is some racy sexual content and innuendo which render the book unsuitable for children but a fine choice for older teens and adults interested in Judaism and the holiday of Purim.

Waldman's Megillat Esther is a real treat. I had a hard time tracking down a copy through my local public library system, but it's worth a read, at Purim time or anytime.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.

6 comments:

jewwishes said...

I will have to track this book down and read it...your review of it is wonderful!

jennysbooks said...

This sounds great! I loved the story of Esther when I was a kid, and we had this adaptation of the story called Behold Your Queen, which I LOVED. My library has this and I will definitely be getting it next time I'm there!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I think there was a book out a couple of years ago that tells the story from Vashti's point of view, but I can't locate the name at the moment. But I did find this fun article on Purim from a feminist perspective, if you are interested:

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/the-problem-with-purim-15348?page=2

rhapsodyinbooks said...

oops - substitute page 1 for page 2 for that article!

Zibilee said...

I have read several versions of the Esther story, and am still fascinated by it. I think this would make a lovely read for me, so I will have to hunt down a copy. Very thoughtful review, Marie. You are always reading the most unique books!

Biblibio said...

What an interesting idea for a graphic novel. In a sense, it's a standard retelling of a fairy tale, but absolutely not standard (and not exactly a fairy tale, so it's good that "midrash" is defined)! Sounds like one to keep an eye out for...