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Book Reviews

Bagels from Benny

by Aubrey Davis, Dusan Petricic, illus.

Benny’s Grandpa bakes the best bagels but refuses to accept his customers’ thanks. When Benny wonders why, Grandpa explains that God deserves the credit. After thinking about how he can best thank God, Benny puts a plan into action. It involves their synagogue, the Holy Ark, and bagels. It also proves to be more successful than he could ever have imagined.

Mystery, miracle, and message are key elements in this contemporary take on an ancient Jewish folk tale from Spain. In their third picture book collaboration, Aubrey Davis and Dusan Petricic combine respect for the story with a sense of fun. Davis, a storyteller and author, has a great ear for dialogue and uses child-friendly language that begs to be read aloud. Young children will identify strongly with a sunbeam that dances, jumps, and tickles. They’ll delight in the playful alliteration of Benny putting “cookies and cakes on the counter” and “bagels and buns in the bins.” Davis also has a knack for characterization. Readers and listeners will like helpful, thoughtful Benny and his wise, kindly Grandpa.

Visuals strongly reinforce the story’s sense of fun. Text literally ripples on the pages, and the aroma of freshly baked bagels visibly wafts throughout. Petricic, an accomplished cartoonist and children’s book illustrator, uses watercolour and pencil to serve up his customary pudding-faced child and quirky-looking adults. He works the bagel angle imaginatively. Small cartoon-like, bagel-brown sketches add interest to text pages. Colour illustrations on text-facing pages are contained in, or expand out of, bagel-brown circles. Bagels from Benny is a strong but gentle story with a message for all ages about the many ways of giving thanks.