The Bagel King by Andrew Larsen

The Bagel King by Andrew Larsen
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Every Sunday morning, no matter the weather, Eli could count on Zaida to bring bagels from Merv’s Bakery. Eli loved the time they spent together enjoying their favorite treats. Warm. Chewy. Salty, Eli thought. Bagels were the best thing about Sunday. But one Sunday, Zaida didn’t come. He had fallen at Merv’s and hurt his tuches, and the doctor said Zaida had to rest at home for two whole weeks. This meant Eli had no Sunday morning bagels. And neither did Zaida’s friends, who had been receiving their own weekly deliveries from Zaida. Will they all go hungry for bagels on Sunday? Or is there something Eli can do? Award-winning author Andrew Larsen’s picture book story offers a gently humorous take on the special bond between a boy and his grandfather and the simple ritual that looms so large in their lives. It also highlights a terrific character education lesson about how a young child can take responsibility and, with a little initiative, help a family member in need. With a blend of retro and contemporary styles, Sandy Nichols’s softly colored illustrations cleverly convey the story’s timelessness and capture Eli’s diverse neighborhood. This book will spark wonderful discussions about family traditions and community. A mini glossary and pronunciation guide for the Yiddish words that are sprinkled throughout the story (like mensch and oy) provides an opportunity to learn about the many words we use in English that come from other languages, and to explore the connections between culture and language.

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The relationship between Eli and Zaida, his grandfather, was such a sweet one. Not only did they love each other quite a bit, they also enjoyed spending time together as buddies. It made me smile to see them try to figure out how to change their routines after Zaida was injured and couldn’t do the things he normally did with his grandson.

There was a pretty big plot hole in this story that none of the characters seemed to notice. As much as I liked watching Eli gradually come up with a plan to help his grandfather after the accident, I was distracted by the fact that no one was talking about the easier and more obvious solution to their problem. I would have chosen a much higher rating if this hadn’t happened.

One of the things I liked the most about this tale were the warm and friendly relationships Eli had obviously developed with everyone in his community. While he wasn’t biologically related to everyone who lived nearby, they did treat him like he was a member of their families. He was watched over and encouraged by all of the adults in his life no matter where he went or what he did. That strong sense of community and protectiveness over the youngest members of a society was such a lovely thing to read about.

I’d recommend The Bagel King to anyone who has developed a close bond with someone much older or younger than them or who wonders what this sort of relationship could be like.

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