Review: Mighty Micah

Mighty Micah

by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Steliyana Doneva

Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2024

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Linda Elovitz Marshall

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As Micah returns home from a Purim party, he recalls how powerful he’d felt when he whirled his gragger (Purim noisemaker). With it, he could “stand up to anyone – even that bad man Haman!” That night, while Micah is asleep, his gragger is carried off by a raccoon, then a fish, then a heron. Before school that morning, however, it is returned to the lawn in front of Micah’s home. In school, Micah shows the gragger to his teacher, Mrs. Mack, who tells the class how Brave Queen Esther saved her people from the evil Haman. Mrs. Mack adds that “everyone needs to feel powerful sometimes” and gives the gragger to the smallest girl in the class. Story and language are cute and clear, combining elements of a “lost mitten” folktale with an anti-bullying story and a tie-in to Purim. A rhyming refrain about the gragger – “is it yummy? will I like it in my tummy?” – add to the story’s folkloric feel. Fanciful, charming illustrations throughout clarify and expand the gragger’s journey and its power.

The focus of this story – and a focus much-appreciated by this reviewer – is knowing one’s inner strength – the strength needed to fight off bullies as well as knowing one's inner ability to feel “powerful and safe and mighty.”

Purim is this story’s holiday setting, thus making Mighty Micah inherently Jewish. The story includes a Purim party (with partygoers depicted as pirates, cowboys, clowns, as well as queens and other royalty), as well as mention of a bad man (Haman), and a good queen who saves her people (Queen Esther). The word “Jewish” is not in the story and it’s not overtly stated that Queen Esther and her people are Jewish or that Haman wanted to destroy the Jews. Perhaps - considering the age of the intended audience - that’s wise and for the best. After all, young children hear a lot to worry about these days. Most importantly, the BIG message here is that everyone needs to know their inner strength… and bullies are not to be tolerated. In this regard, Mighty Micah reigns victorious! YAY for Mighty Micah!

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Award-winning author of more than two dozen fiction and non-fiction picture books, reviewer Linda Elovitz Marshall studied cultural anthropology at Barnard College/Columbia University. After living on a farm, raising four children and a small flock of sheep, then pursuing a Ph.D. in anthropology, and owning a bookstore, Linda began writing for children. Her Jewish-interest books include THE POLIO PIONEER: Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine, GOOD NIGHT, WIND, The MEXICAN DREIDEL (with Ilan Stavans) and BRAVE VOLODYMYR: The Story of Volodymyr Zelensky and the Fight for Ukraine.