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Bagels from Benny
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
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. We see Benny visiting the synagogue, opening the Ark, and wearing a yarmulke to Shabbat services. We learn about Jewish values like gratitude, charity, love between the generations, and most of all, "tikkun olam," the repair of the world. It is not only the moral of the story that is Jewish, but the attitudes and actions of all its characters. While the Judaic elements of the story are not explained, enough context is provided for non-Jewish readers to understand them, and the emotional facets of the story can be appreciated by any reader. A valuable addition to Judaic AND public children's library collections, and to home collections as well.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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
on April 19, 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
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
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I can't recommend it enough. I found it the first time in a library tag sale, of all places, but since I've bought it from every child I know. It's so touching and it literally makes this full-fledged adult tear up. Happily, my daughter really loves it, too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is so touching, true, and captivating. I bought a number of them and give them out as birthday gifts. Every parent of a child who received one told me how much they love this book.
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on August 27, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This has become one of our favorite books! In the story, little Benny wants to thank God for bagels but doesn't know how. Finally he decides the best way to thank God is by giving Him some bagels to eat. So he sneaks bagels into the temple and leaves them for God. When the bagels disappear, Benny assumes God ate them, and brings more. Eventually, however, Benny discovers God isn't eating the bagels. An unemployed, presumably homeless, man has been eating them. The man believes God has been sending the bagels from heaven to help him in his time of need. Benny is upset, but his grandfather explains by feeding a hungry man, Benny has accomplished what he set out to do: thank God.
The characters in the story are Jewish, but this is a story that transcends one religion. The man in the story believes God is sending the bagels and he isn't wrong. Benny may be naive, but God uses his selfless gift of bagels to help someone who really needed help. This is such a beautiful and sweet story. I cried the first time I read it. It appeals to ALL ages; and I love that I'm reading my children something that helps them learn a little more about the way God works rather than just another picture book.
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on August 8, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a beautiful book, one for all age children, and adults, too. It is a story about a little boy who wants to thank God by giving to Him, but finds that the way to give to God is by giving to others. It is not didactic or "preachy," the story is wonderful in and of itself. The pictures are beautiful and complement the story. It is one of our family's favorite books.
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on February 23, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is fantastic! I read it to my 3-year-old last night. It is captivating and with a wonderful lesson. I have to admit, I had a very time not crying. This book is a lovely way to introduce concepts of poverty, helping others and god as well. Highly recommend this book.
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