Davis (previously paired with Petricic for The Enormous Potato) successfully updates a centuries-old Jewish folktale (a traditional version can be found in Barbara Diamond Goldin's memorable Hanukkah anthology, While the Candles Burn). Benny's grandfather bakes wonderful bagels, but teaches Benny that it is God, not him, who should be thanked for them ("Aren't bagels made with flour?"... "Doesn't flour come from wheat?"... "And where does wheat come from?"... "And who made the earth?"... "Then thank God for the bagels"). Benny wants to make sure God knows he's grateful, so he decides to thank Him by stashing a big bag of bagels in the Ark at his synagogue; the bagels disappear, leading Benny to think that God has eaten them, so he repeats his gift every Friday. When Benny learns that a poor man has been eating the bagels, he feels disappointed until his grandfather points out that by helping the poor man, Benny has thanked God ("You made the world a little better"). In creating a child protagonist and introducing an intergenerational element, Davis increases the folktale's accessibility to young readers, and his fluid prose, too, is welcoming. Unfortunately, Petricic's illustrations don't match the warmth of the story. Caricatures distance the audience from the emotions and the action, and a predominantly brown palette, although strategically accented with bright colors, dampens the visual interest. Ages 4-8. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Benny's grandfather, baker of "the best bagels in town," assures him that God is the one to thank for his good bagels, not him. Pondering how to thank God, Benny decides to take a bag of bagels to the synagogue and put them inside "His Special Box," the Ark. Every Friday he gives bagels to God there, and every Sunday they are gone, so he thinks God must like them. When Grandpa, curious to know what Benny is doing with the bagels, follows him, they both wonder and wait to see what happens. Benny realizes that a poor man has been eating the bagels, and feels that he has failed in his aim. But Grandpa reminds him that he has made the world a little better, and asks "what better thanks could God have?" The watercolor-and-pencil illustrations, framed in bagel-like circles, depict Benny's story with emotion and a gentle romanticism, from his initial puzzlement through his enthusiasm to his ultimate satisfaction. Small line drawings on the text pages add details that maintain the thread of the visual narrative. Rooted in an ancient Jewish folk tale from Spain, the tale has become a legend that could provoke discussion beyond Benny's simple faith. 2003, Kids Can Press, Ages 4 to 8.
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
A heartfelt gesture of gratitude takes a surprising but altogether proper twist in this retold folktale. When young Benny's beloved Grandpa, a baker renowned for his bagels, suggests that God deserves the main credit for them, Benny mulls it over, then begins leaving a bag of them in the synagogue every week. They disappear, which he takes as a good sign-until one time he sees a poor man come in and take them, with a prayer of thanks. Benny is devastated until Grandpa, who's seen the whole thing, tells him that he's made the world a little better-"And what better thanks could God have?" Petricic supplies sketchy watercolor scenes of bagelish color and shape, featuring an engagingly small, jug-eared lad in jacket and shorts wrestling great bags of steaming bagels into the Holy Ark. Davis doesn't supply a recipe (practically a requirement these days for any story involving food), but he does close with a note on his sources. Even younger readers will have no trouble appreciating either the wisdom that Grandpa offers, or the close relationship between him and his devout grandson. (Picture book/folktale. 6-10)
Jewish Book World
A valuable addition to Judaic and public children’s collections.
From the Publisher
Even young readers will have no trouble appreciating either wisdom that Grandpa offers, or the close relationship between him and his devout grandson.
In creating a child protagonist and introducing an intergenerational element, Davis increases he folktale's accessibility to young readers, and his fluid prose, too, is welcoming.
A valuable addition to Judaic and public children's collections.