In honor of both Passover and Easter, I thought I'd recommend two religious picture books that transcend the boundaries of belief, focused as they are on the ethics of kindness and generosity. My observation is that these books seem to speak to anyone with a heart, regardless of affiliation.
In this wonderful, wonderful picture book, Benny is told that he has God to thank for the beautiful bagels that emerge daily from the oven in his grandfather's bakery. Believing that he should somehow return the favor, Benny begins a secret ritual on Fridays of leaving bagels in the synogogue's Holy Ark. Each Saturday he sees that the bagels have disappeared and believes God must be eating them. The truth behind their disappearance results in a meaningful lesson for Benny and a memorable read for you. This is a clever adaptation of a classic Jewish folk tale, perfectly captured by Petricic's cross-hatched watercolor illustrations.
This striking new book is as complex and beautiful as the details in its cover illustration would suggest. That might be why it's our store's second bestselling picture book so far this year. In Cooper's story, a boy and his grandfather (an unintentional theme of these reviews) discuss how different the world would be if more people (and nations) would practice the Golden Rule. Swiatkowska's stunning illustrations swirl with images culled from various religious traditions, emphasizing the grandfather's words about the universality of the Rule and its overall importance. This is a book for readers of all ages to read, savor, and contemplate.
(For those of you wondering, the picture book that's currently outselling The Golden Rule at our store is Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser.)