Martha Seif Simpson still remembers the kaleidoscope of penny candy at Dotty\u2019s Variety. The pink bubble gum, the wisps of red licorice, those ubiquitous Necco Wafers \u2014 rows and rows of sweets awaiting a fistful of coins. Her parents, Sam and Dorothy Seif, owned the neighborhood grocery on Allen Street in New Bedford, Mass., for nearly 20 years. As a young Jewish girl, Simpson grew up selling candy, eggs, milk, pretty much anything local kids ran to the store to fetch. Although times have changed \u2014 Simpson is now the head of children\u2019s services at Stratford Library and a published children\u2019s author \u2014 the traditions remain the same. For generations of Jews in New England and around the world, the coming of spring signals Purim, a holiday marking how Queen Esther thwarted Haman and his plan to kill the Jews in ancient Persia. This year, Purim begins at sundown on March 20. As part of the festivities, children at temple dress in costumes, often with crowns, masks and capes. They also shake and spin noisemakers called graggers to drown out Haman\u2019s name when it\u2019s read in the Megillah, a text that recounts how Queen Esther foiled Haman\u2019s plot. But sometimes, as Simpson writes in her new children\u2019s book, \u201cEsther\u2019s Gragger: A Toyshop Tale of Purim,\u201d a little girl can be just as heroic as the queen who shares her name. After young Esther does many good deeds, her brother buys her a magnificent gragger from the toyshop. Later in the story, when she gets bullied, Esther takes her gragger and swings it around and around to drown out the bully \u2014 just like the kids do at temple when Haman\u2019s name is read. Forget about the drawn swords and the pointed words. Esther discovers that a noisemaker in the right hands is enough to quash the meanest bully. \u201cTo me, the story of Queen Esther and Purim is all about how she stood up to a bully, Haman,\u201d says Simpson, 64, who lives in Hamden with her husband, John. \u201cShe was very brave to do that. But then, how do you translate that into a children\u2019s story? Bullying has always been a problem for kids and it\u2019s even more of a problem now.\u201d Simpson says \u201cEsther\u2019s Gragger,\u201d which takes place in Eastern Europe before World War II, teaches children that bullying is unacceptable in any context. Suddenly, the message of Purim takes on a universal meaning, one that transcends religion to advance kindness and community. \u201cIt\u2019s a good book to read in the classroom or at home because you can get discussions going, ways to talk about bullying in the open, and how to address it and prevent it,\u201d Simpson says, adding that her story is designed for children ages 4 and up. \u201cThere are issues here we can all learn from.\u201d Along with drawing from Dolly\u2019s Variety to include a toyshop in her story, Simpson takes on bullying and social injustice to honor her father, a Holocaust survivor, and the 6 million Jews murdered in the Nazi genocide. \u201cMy father was born in Poland and a lot of his family perished in the Holocaust,\u201d Simpson says. \u201cHe was the youngest of seven kids. He had two older sisters that I was named for. One of the sisters had a family, but they all died. My father\u2019s parents also died in the Holocaust. There\u2019s a lot of history there.\u201d And it must not be forgotten. Simpson says stories are powerful, a memorable way to pass down important stories and oral histories. Not surprisingly, Simpson\u2019s four children were all avid readers when they were little. In fact, her two daughters became librarians, too. \u201cEsther\u2019s Gragger\u201d is Simpson\u2019s second book published by Indiana-based Wisdom Tales. In 2014, she published \u201cThe Dreidel that Wouldn\u2019t Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah.\u201d Both books were illustrated by Durga Yael Bernhard. Wisdom Tales, which specializes in publishing multicultural books, worked with Simpson to expand her audience beyond Jewish children. \u201cAt the very end of the books,\u201d Simpson says, \u201cthere\u2019s information about Purim and Hanukkah: What is Purim? What is Hanukkah? How is the holiday celebrated today? This is how you play dreidel. This is how you can make your own gragger.\u201d For Simpson\u2019s family, the games and traditions have come full circle. At the circulation desk. \u201cEvery time we go into a library \u2014 my kids and I call it, \u2018The Martha Test\u2019 \u2014 they go on the computer and they see if the library owns any of my books,\u201d Simpson says. \u201cSometimes they do, in which case, I go and introduce myself to the librarian. Other times, they don\u2019t. But it\u2019s always kind of fun.\u201d So is there a third \u201cToyshop Tale\u201d ahead for Simpson? \u201cWe\u2019ll see,\u201d she smiled, clearly guarding a secret. \u201cI have a few ideas I\u2019m working on.\u201d Brian Koonz is a former reporter, editor and columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.