About the Holiday
As Culinary Arts Month winds down, it’s a good time to think about traditions. Not only traditional dishes but about those times of cooking and eating together that bring families and friends closer. Weekly dinners with extended family, holiday baking, and summer barbecues are just some of the events that can get people talking and laughing and sharing good times. To celebrate today, have fun with one of your culinary traditions—or create a new one!
The Bagel King
Written by Andrew Larsen | Illustrated by Sandy Nichols
“Every Sunday morning Zaida went to Merv’s Bakery for bagels.” Sometimes his young grandson, Eli, went with him. When he did, Mrs. Rose always gave him a pickle from the big jar behind the counter. When he didn’t, “Zaida delivered his bagels right to his door.” Zaida went to Merv’s every Sunday no matter what the weather. The “warm, chewy, salty bagels were the best thing about Sunday.”
One Sunday, though, the familiar knock on the door never came. Later, Zaida called Eli and told him he had “slipped on some schmutz at Merv’s” and had gone to the doctor. Zaida had hurt his tuches and was ordered to relax at home for two weeks. Eli ran right over. As they sat together, both Eli’s and Zaida’s stomach rumbled with missing the usual bagels.
Pretty soon there was a knock on the door and three of Zaida’s elderly neighbors came in. All three were just as hungry as Eli and Zaida. It turned out that Zaida had been hosting a bagel feast for the four of them for years. When Zaida told them about his tuches, they said “‘Oy! Are you all right?’” But they were all disappointed about the bagels.
As the week went on, Eli visited his grandfather every day. He brought chicken soup one day, another day he brought chicken soup and a book, and on yet another day, he brought chicken soup and a canine friend for company. On Saturday night, though, it wasn’t chicken soup Eli was thinking about, but bagels. “Even the moon looked like a bagel all smothered with cream cheese.”
The next morning, Eli woke up early and walked down to Merv’s with a list in his hand. When he reached the counter, he handed Mrs. Rose the list. As she read it, she said, “‘This looks very familiar. Except for the last item.” Eli told her that it was a surprise. With the big bag hugged close, Eli left Merv’s and went to Zaida’s. When Zaida saw the big bag of bagel, he was surprised! His friends were delighted. “‘The boy’s a prince,’” said Mr. Goldstck, but “Zaida proudly declared, ‘He’s the Bagel King!’”
Then Eli reached in and brought out his surprise—a jar of Merv’s pickles. As Eli ate his “warm, chewy, salty” bagels, he knew “bagles were the best thing about Sunday. The best thing, that is, except for Zaida.”
A glossary of the Yiddish words used in the story and a bit about bagels and chicken soup precede the text.
With a sprinkling of Yiddish words and an old neighborhood atmosphere, Andrew Larsen depicts a close relationship between a grandfather and grandson who bond over bagels, pickles, and a deep love for one another. While Zaida is the one who begins the Sunday bagel tradition, this is Eli’s story as he takes it upon himself to help his grandfather recuperate and makes sure that he, Zaida, and Zaida’s friends don’t miss their favorite day for a second time. Young readers will find in Eli a peer role model for showing care and concern for family members and friends. Larsen’s straightforward storytelling peppered with realistic and humorous dialogue is as warm and cozy as sitting down to a Sunday family breakfast.
Sandy Nichols’ fresh, retro illustrations stylishly bridge the generations while also reveling in the friendly city neighborhood feeling that provides a backdrop and context for Eli’s emotional growth within the story. Images of Eli hanging over the arm of his grandfather’s sofa in boredom and disappointment, wistfully dreaming of bagels on Saturday night, and proudly making his list, buying the bagels, and delivering them—complete with a surprise—to Zaida and his friends will delight readers.
The Bagel King is an uplifting, joyful for all kids coming into their own and desiring to make a difference. The book would make a sweet gift for grandparents or grandkids, a snug family story to add to home libraries, and a terrific choice for classroom or library storytimes.
Ages 4 – 8
Kids Can Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1771385749
Discover more about Andrew Larsen and his books on his website.
National Culinary Arts Month Activity
CD (Compact Doughnuts) Decoration
Do you have an old CD that could use an upgrade? With this easy craft, you can turn it into a cute doughnut (or bagel) hanging.
- Unused CDs
- Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
- Ribbon, any color and length you want
- Fine-tip markers in bright colors
- Glue dots (optional)
- Paint brush
- Paint a wavy edge around the CD, let dry
- Paint the center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted
- When the icing paint is dry, draw sprinkles on the icing with the markers
- With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
- Hang your decoration
You can find The Bagel King at these booksellers
Picture Book Review