________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 20 . . . . June 5, 1998

cover Mr. Belinsky's Bagels.

Ellen Schwartz. Illustrated by Stefan Czernecki.
Vancouver, BC: Tradewind Books, c1997.
32 pp, hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 1-896580-14-9.

Subject Headings:
Bakers and bakeries-Fiction.

Kindergarten - grade 2 / Ages 5 - 7
Review by Alison Mews.

*** /4


Mr. Belinsky made bagels. Bagels were all he made. He didn't make pies, he didn't make cakes, he didn't make doughnuts or muffins or gingerbread. He just made bagels - poppy seed, onion, and pumpernickel bagels - and he sold them in his shop, called BELINSKY'S BAGELS.

Mr. Belinsky's son, Victor, said: "Pa, why do you make only bagels? Why don't you make cinnamon rolls or butter rolls or jelly rolls?"

Mr. Belinsky answered, "Should a doctor fix leaky pipes? No! Should an opera singer take care of sick dogs? No! Should Belinsky make fancy cakes? No! I make bagels. Bagels is what I make. And that's that."

image Mr. Belinsky's Bagels is a charming story of a baker who, after attempting to please others, learns to be true to himself. Content with his bagel shop and his few loyal customers, Mr. Belinsky is alarmed when a fancy new bakery opens across the street. When he sees it filled with satisfied customers, his own small shop seems empty indeed, and he is persuaded by his son Victor to begin baking delectable pastries and cookies instead of bagels. An immediate success, he extends his product line and rakes in the money, but, in the process, he disappoints his bagel-loving customers. He eventually realizes, through the eyes of young Ralph, his former bagel helper, just what he has given up. He then cheerfully throws out all his new machinery and returns to making bagels, just bagels, by hand.

      In typical folktale style, the story is exaggerated to drive home the message. There are no happy mediums here; it's all bagels or all sweets. Mr. Belinsky is so full of giddy success that he actually forgets his bagel recipe, but his hands, which felt "as though they were missing something" even when counting all the money, remember and begin mixing the ingredients. The classic dichotomy of head and heart exemplified.

      The flat, folk-art illustrations with their strong colours are well-suited to the tale, and the simple design adds to the predictable nature of the story. Each left page has text with a small colour embellishment from the right side full-page illustration. All the illustrations have the same dough-coloured bagel background, which is also found on the endpapers and cover jacket. The illustrator provides a contrast of the happy aproned baker offering bagels to his favourite customers in the beginning with the later suited and successful baker, whose eyes are downcast and discontent. This contrast gently reinforces the story's lesson that popularity and success do not equal happiness.

      A good read-aloud, this story with its simple pictures is perfect for sharing at story-time.


Alison Mews is the Coordinator of the Centre for Instructional Services at the Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364