cover image Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born

Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born

Anna Egan Smucker, illus. by Amanda Hall. Eerdmans, $17 (34p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5420-9

Drawing from the semi-apocryphal origins of the pretzel, which trace the baked good to a monk in medieval Europe, Smucker (Golden Delicious) introduces Brother Giovanni, “the best baker his monastery had ever had.” With the bishop scheduled to visit the monastery, the children the monks teach must learn to recite their prayers before his arrival. Giovanni tries singing, making “mean” faces, and dancing with the children, but while these attempts bring him closer to the children (the genial monk’s efforts to frown have the children rolling on the floor with laughter), they don’t help them learn their prayers. Taking inspiration from the medieval setting, Hall (The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau) ornaments her bright, playful paintings with filigrees and other decorative elements. When Brother Giovanni has his eureka moment—using the shape of two arms crossed in prayer to create a snack for the ages (and a delicious reward for the children)—he is flanked by two trumpet-playing angels, and a pretzel rests above his head like the flame of the Holy Spirit. It’s a winning blend of the holy and the holey. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)