Courageous Queens: A List of Vashti and Esther Stories

brave little girl climbing a rock wall

Ometz lev, the Hebrew word for courage, literally means strength of heart. A strong, brave heart is needed whenever one tries something new by conquering one’s fears or stands up for one’s beliefs. Childhood is typically a time of many fears, with these fears morphing and changing each time a child enters a new developmental stage.   

Children benefit greatly from reading about heroes who courageously face their fears. Inspiration is found in the lives of contemporary heroes such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and in Biblical heroes like Moses, Judah Maccabee, and of course, Queen Esther and Queen Vashti from the Purim story.  

Esther and Vashti both stood up for themselves--and their beliefs in different ways. Vashti by refusing to compromise her values to appease the king and Esther by revealing her true identity to save the Jewish people. Learn more about both women and their unique acts of bravery in the following picture books:

Esther Didn't Dream of Being Queen by Allison Ofanansky

Recommended for ages 6 to 8

The story of Purim has many elements of a fairy tale -- a beautiful queen, a dastardly villain, and of course, a satisfying ending. But Esther doesn't love dressing up and being the center of attention -- she's not interested in playing the Cinderella role. How will she muster the will to do what needs to be done?. 

The Story of Queen Esther by Jenny Koralek

Recommended for ages 8 and up

The king may have married Queen Esther because she was beautiful -- but she was smart and brave, too, which is why she was able to save her people.

Queen Esther Saves Her People by Rita Golden Gelman

Recommended for ages 8 and up

Long, long ago a young Jewish woman named Esther was chosen to be the Queen of Persia. The king’s prime minister proceeds to scheme against the kingdom’s Jewish citizens. How will Esther find the courage to stand up for the rights of her people?

The Seventh Handmaiden book cover

The Seventh Handmaiden by Judith Pransky

Recommended for ages 9 and up

Handmaiden to the secretive Lady Esther, Darya has uncovered a treacherous plot that could endanger them all. Can she save the people she cares about and discover the truth about her past?

Queen Vashti's Comfy Pants by Leah Rachel Berkowitz 

Recommended for ages 6 to 8

Queen Vashti was hanging out with her friends when the King rudely summoned her to entertain him. He didn't even ask nicely! What's a strong, independent woman to do in that situation?

The Story of Esther: A Purim Tale by Eric A. Kimmel

Recommended for ages 8 and up

The Purim story, full of drama, brings together a mighty king, a jealous scoundrel, and a wise uncle. At its center is a clever heroine, Queen Esther. It was her courage that saved the Jewish people at a dangerous time.