Review: The Purim Panic

The Purim Panic (Ruby Celebrates! series)

by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov

Albert Whitman, 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Rinat Siegel

The Purim Panic is a new addition to the Jewish holiday series; Ruby Celebrates! by Laura Gehl. It is a fun and easy-to-read Purim mystery tale suitable for pre-k through first-grade readers. Ruby and her family are happily busy, getting ready for Purim. Ruby is making hamantaschen. Her toddler brother, Benny, is making a grogger while their father and Bubbe (grandmother) are helping navigate these fun tasks. 

The characters are smiling and depict a modern Ashkenazi family with bright and colorful illustrations. All the preparations run smoothly until Ruby realizes the special ring she received from her grandmother is missing. The whole family tries to help while Benny is making noise with his grogger, trying to grab Ruby’s attention. One by one, different family members arrive and try to help, but the ring is nowhere to be found. When Ruby's dad says it is time to go to hear the Megillah, Ruby is disappointed, but carries on and helps her brother get ready. There are relatable scenes for young children when Ruby and Benny don’t get along. Ruby snaps and threatens Benny. 

The peak of the story takes place in a conservative or reform synagogue as the whole family sits together. Benny is excited to shake his grogger to the point where it breaks, and the mystery is solved. The ring was inside his grogger the whole time. Ruby apologizes for her mean words to Benny and promises to help him make a new grogger. 

The book has contemporary Jewish representation. A child can learn about the different traditions of Purim, and there are many authentic moments from the daily life of young children. The back matter provides information about the holiday of Purim and a step by step instructions on how to make a grogger. Overall, the story provides an easy introduction to the main traditions and customs of Purim. There is a nice underlying message that made me smile as I was reading this story - sometimes what we are looking for is right under our noses.

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Reviewer Rinat Hadad Siegel was born in Israel to a Jewish Mizrahi family. She is a former educator and resource teacher. Rinat received her Bachelor's Degree from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev and holds a Master's Degree in Education from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. Rinat spends her days researching and writing stories about Mizrahi and Middle Eastern Jewry.