Book Reviews: The King’s Horse by Leah Sokol (Feldheim Publishers 2019) and Creation Colors by Ann D. Koffsky (2019 Apples & Honey Press)
Reviewed by Rebecca Klempner
The King’s Horse by Leah Sokol employs a novel perspective—that of Achashveirosh’s trusty steed—to provide a fanciful, yet accurate, retelling of Megillat Esther which is perfect for newly independent readers.
The text, just under 50 pages long, is just simple enough to be read by a child (perhaps of age 6 or 7) starting to read chapter books, while the horse’s slightly snarky voice (“Humans. There is no point in trying to figure them out.”) will keep them engaged throughout the story.
In the illustrations, by Joni Aliza Baroda, horses prance and gallop in full color. I also enjoyed the sweet little decorative touches which were inspired by the Persian artistic heritage.
Many retellings of the story of Esther overlook midrashic explanations of events or remove elements they find objectionable (the deaths of Haman and his sons, for example), thereby irking frum readers. Ironically, although this version of the story borders on the fantastic, it is one of the retellings most consistent with traditional understandings of the tale that I’ve seen. The author’s skill at balancing playfulness and mesorah is both very clever and a delight.
Even though we all know how the story ends, Sokol manages to give us a twist ending. The book concludes with some facts about Purim and horses. The King’s Horse is a wonderfully fresh take on a familiar tale. It’s available both in Judaica stores and via online retailers.
Ann D. Koffsky’s Creation Colors uses intricate papercuts to tell the story of Creation. Picture book readers (approximately ages 2 to 6) will revel in the extraordinary, layered images Koffsky created. The text is told in direct, almost poetic, language, and is straightforward enough for those young readers. Again, this is a book accurate enough for the discerning frum reader, but in this case, it would also be very appealing for the Christian audience.
Another nice touch: On the page that depicts the creation of humans, we read, “And then it was time for the people. G-d started with just two.” Koffsky provides us with a distinctly brown Adam and a white Chava—beautifully and modestly portrayed from the shoulders up, turned away. Then the next page reads, “But soon there were many, many more, in every shade and hue.” The picture that accompanies it is wonderfully inclusive.
Creation Colors would be a perfect purchase for a young child or for preschool or Hebrew school use. It will be available online and at brick-and-mortar stores on April 1st.