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Bagels from Benny Paperback – September 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews Review

Benny adores helping out his Grandpa at the bagel bakery, the best in town. The young Jewish boy loves his grandfather's bagels so much, he wants to thank God for them. But how? One morning, he asks his Grandpa if he could pay him for his work with a big bag of bagels. So equipped, he heads for the synagogue, takes a deep breath, opens the big wooden cupboard that is the Holy Ark, and places the steaming bag inside: "King of the Universe," he whispered. "I brought You some bagels. I know You make them. But You never taste them, because Grandpa sells every last one." Benny keeps this up week after week until he discovers, to his dismay, that a poor man in a tattered coat has been eating his bagels, and not God. How will God know he is thanking Him if someone else is eating the bagels? Grandpa reassures him that by making the world better, he is indeed thanking God. Dusan Petricic's expressive, cross-hatched illustrations, each one as round and warm and brown as a freshly baked bagel, illuminate all of the story's best moments with humor and emotion. This simple, touching Jewish folktale from Spain transcends Judaism as a story of human kindness and generosity of spirit that will resonate with all children. --Karin Snelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

PreS-Gr. 2. Benny says thank you to God, but how does he know that God hears? Why doesn't God answer? Benny works out a plan: in return for working in his grandpa's bakery, Benny asks for a bag of bagels every Friday and he leaves them for God in the Holy Ark in the synagogue. Every week the bagels disappear, and Benny is happy that God has taken them. Then Benny and Grandpa see a ragged man take the bagels from the ark and thank God for feeding him; the man says that he has found work at last, and he promises to help others. Based on an ancient Jewish folktale from Spain, the story of how a small gesture can make a difference is a moving drama of generosity and faith. The casual, cartoon-style watercolors with pencil cross-hatching show the mystery in ordinary things. The pictures, in a circular in shape in the center of each page, are as round as a bagel, as round as the Earth made by God. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 330L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1553377494
  • ISBN-13: 978-1553377498
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 9.5 x 0.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Before becoming an award-winning writer and storyteller, Aubrey Davis worked as a logger, house painter and lab technician. He sold antiques, car parts, books, and beads. A retired teacher with an M. Ed. in psychology and adult education, he taught an oral language program to primary and special needs students. He has written four books: Bone Button Borscht, Sody Salleratus and The Enormous Potato. His latest, Bagels for Benny, has won multiple awards including the Sydney Taylor Award, The Mr. Christie Award (Silver) and the Canadian Jewish Book Awards Children's Literature Prize. Aubrey has also written a screenplay for Sheldon Cohen's new animated film, The Three Wishes (Film & DVD: NFB & PMA Productions, 2005). His forthcoming picture books are Kishka for Koppel (Orca, Fall 2011, A Hen for Izzy Pippik/Une Poule pour Izzy Pippik (Kids Can Press/Editions Scholastic, March 2012). Aubrey tells his tales to people of all ages across Canada and the US. A featured presenter at festivals and conferences, he's also told stories on national radio and television. He is currently Director and Corporate Secretary for The Institute for Cross-cultural Exchange (ICE), a charity helping at-risk Canadian and Afghan children read and own their own books. Aubrey lives in Toronto with his wife and storyteller Sandra Carpenter-Davis and their dog, JojoBella. His daughter and grandchildren live in Saskatoon.and his son lives nearby.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Heidi Estrin on February 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Bagels From Benny is the gold medal winner of the 2003 Sydney Taylor Book Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries! It was selected out of nearly 200 eligible titles as the best Judaic book of the year for younger readers.
Based on an ancient Jewish folktale, this is a whimsical yet serious story of a child's attempt to connect with God. Benny's grandfather bakes the best bagels in town, but gives the credit to God, the source of the earth from which the wheat grows. Benny wants to say 'thank you,' and places bagels in the Holy Ark so that God can taste the results of His handiwork. Benny finally discovers that the bagels have been eaten, not by God, but by a hungry, tattered man, and is disappointed until grandfather explains that Benny has thanked God by helping others and making the world a better place. In some ways, this adaptation is more believable than the original tale in which a grown man places challahs in the Ark; after all, it is more developmentally appropriate for a child to believe that God needs to eat!
Author Aubrey Davis is a storyteller as well as a writer, and the poetic text has a "read-aloud" quality. Dusan Petricic's slightly surreal illustrations emphasize Benny's emotions. The palette leans toward a warm, bagel-y beige with splashes of brighter color. Small sepia sketches capture moments like Grandpa's eyebrows raised in surprise, or provide context by giving exterior views of the bakery or synagogue. The final illustration, which merges Benny and Grandpa with the starry sky, is a perfect metaphor for the oneness with the universe they've just achieved by thanking God.
While the word "Jewish" appears only in the end note, this is a story of strong Jewish identity and values.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. Johnson on August 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I am not Jewish but feel this book is wonderful for all children who are trying to grasp the concept of God and for parents who want to impart this important lesson - God wants us to help others. My 7 year old checked this book out from the public library and had me read it to him over and over again. He related to Benny and especially loves the part when the Grandfather is initially horrified with what Benny is doing with the Bagels. This book is a true classic and I am disappointed that I don't find it available in my local bookstores.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Havah on April 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
_Bagels from Benny_ is a retelling of an old Hasidic Jewish tale (Hasidism is the mystical branch of Judaism). The tale is retold through the eyes of a young child, Benny. Benny helps his Grandfather in his bakery everyday. One day a customer thanks the Grandfather for putting such "love" in his bagels. Benny's Grandfather brushes off the thanks and says that the thanks really belong to God. Benny like most children is earnest in his desire to get the his thanks to God. Benny's dilemma is how to be sure that God "received" the thanks. Benny decides to share some of the bagels with God and places a bag full of bagels in the Holy Ark (a closet in the synagogue that holds the Torahs [5 Books of Moses]). When Benny next goes to synagogue with his family on Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath),Benny is delighted to see that the bagels are gone. He, of course, decides that God ate the bagels and decides to bring some every week for God. After a few weeks Grandpa gets suspicious, what is a little boy doing with all of those bagels? Grandpa follows Benny and like most adults is appalled to find out what Benny is doing and why. But what is happening to the bagels? Where are they going? That is the delightful end to the story and it shows how Benny is thanking God by making the world a better place.

The writing is wonderful and musical. The pictures are delightful. This is one of the best all around Jewish books for children. The characters react exactly as you expect them to. The writing has real life to it. If you are looking for a story with Jewish characters that is not about a Jewish holiday, this is your book. This is the perfect book for a religious family wanting to add story books to their collection (although you might want to draw a kippah [yarmaka] on Benny) as well as a secular or non-Jewish parents and teachers wanting to add an authentically Jewish story to their collection.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By N. R. Johnson on May 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I shed a tear when I read this one. I can't wait to buy it and read it to our Religious School children. It is touching, poignant and meaningful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mom of 5 on May 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
We are not Jewish, however this book is so wonderfully written, it is one of our favorites.
I read numerous children's books and I've become very finicky when it comes to children's literature.

Benny wants to thank God for the bagels that his grandfather bakes in his shop. Benny decides giving God a taste of the bagels is the perfect way. He works hard in his grandfather's bakery and asks for bagels in exchange. Benny brings these bagels each week to the synagogue and leaves them in the Ark. When curiosity sets in Grandfather follows Benny to see where his grandson goes with all those bagels. After his initial shock Grandfather explains to Benny that God doesn't need to eat. As they hide in the shadows a man comes to retrieve the bagels. He thanks God for feeding him all these weeks and promises to help others. Benny is crushed that God didn't eat the bagels, but a poor man took them. Grandfather explains in beautifully simple terms why in fact Benny did thank God.

This story opens doors to all sorts of discussion from being thankful, other's beliefs, Grandfather's reaction to finding his grandson putting bagels "still warm, just the way You like them." into the Ark, to the love for God and family so obvious throughout this story. Lines such as "His heart skipped and his eyes danced." make this story come alive. Enjoy!
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