Ever since Eli can remember, his Zaida (grandfather) has delivered Sunday morning bagels to his friends and grandson from Merv’s Bakery, a wonderful emporium stocked with bagels, pickles, and herring. After Zaida hurts his tuches slipping on the floor and needs to take leave from his bagel duties, Eli takes over, reciprocating the love his grandfather has shown him.
While this story is not about loss, it does allude to the inevitable weakness of old age through a non-traumatic plot. Eli’s Zaida is injured and disabled, but only temporarily. We also meet Zaida’s friends — Mr. Rubin, Mr. Wolf, and Mr. Goldstick. The three gentlemen are realistic, but not frightening, representations of frailty. Each man uses a different type of cane or walker; Mr. Goldstick’s is yellow-gold, in a kind of visual pun.
Illustrator Sandy Nichols makes other delightful uses of color: Zaida’s chartreuse overcoat matches the green shade of the pickles at Merv’s, as well as the kitchen chairs where he and Eli eat their breakfast. Eli’s blue shirt is the same color as the donut pillow that the doctor prescribes for Zaida’s injured tuches, as well as Mr. Goldstick’s plaid shirt and Zaida’s bathrobe. Children will recognize and enjoy this repetition as the story progresses. They will also relate to Eli’s carefully composed, if misspelled, list of items to buy at Merv’s when he decides to take on Zaida’s job.
In the final illustration, Zaida and Eli are enjoying their bagels smeared with cream cheese. Eli lifts his bagel with two small hands, while Zaida eats his with one hand, resting his other, beautifully gnarled one on the table. Children “reading” this picture learn an unobtrusive message about the differences and continuities between generations.
The book includes a short Yiddish glossary at the beginning, introducing the story’s unapologetically Jewish setting.
Recommended for readers ages 3 to 7, but also for parents and grandparents who have ever bonded with their kids over a bagel.
Emily Schneider writes about literature, feminism, and culture for Tablet, The Forward, The Horn Book, and other publications, and writes about children’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures.