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Brother Giovanni's Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born (Autographed)
Brother Giovanni's Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born

Our Price: $17.00
Pages: 34
Trim: 10 x 9.5
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0-8028-5420-9

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By Anna Egan Smucker
Illustrated by Amanda Hall

Brother Giovanni is a happy man, content to do what he knows best: baking. But all is not well at his monastery, where the monks are trying to teach the children their prayers in time for a very important visit from the Bishop. Having tried everything, they turn to Giovanni — but he doesn’t know anything about teaching! Eventually, though, Brother Giovanni discovers how to use his gifts to offer the children the perfect motivation and invents the tasty treat we now know as the pretzel.

This vibrant book, which includes a historical note and a pretzel recipe, tells the fascinating story behind one of the world’s most popular snacks.


Publishers Weekly
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.)

Kirkus Reviews
A fanciful and inventive version of how those yummy big soft pretzels came to be. Brother Giovanni is a monk of inveterate cheerfulness and a most excellent baker. But the bishop is coming, and the children don't know their prayers: what to do? The abbot hopes that Brother Giovanni's youth and smile will coax the children into learning. Brother Giovanni sings to them and allows them to dance at lessons, but that doesn't work. He even tries Brother Jerome's advice to put on a stern face (the montage of Giovanni's attempts at stern faces is very funny). But after a night of sleeplessness and prayer, when he makes far too large a batch of dough, he folds and twists ropes of dough into the position of his arms at prayer and then offers the pretiolas as a reward. Everyone loves them and works hard at learning their prayers to earn the treat. While it was probably a monk who invented pretzels, no one knows for sure, as Smucker explains in a closing note. Hall sets the tale in a candy-colored place of well-scrubbed children; the small monastery is equipped with the requisite cat. Delightfully, a pretzel recipe is included. As happy a piece of ecclesiastical cuisine as can be imagined (Picture book. 5-9)

About the author:
Anna Egan Smucker has written several books for children and has poetry featured in many journals and anthologies. She lives in West Virginia with her husband and dog, Flash. Anna Smucker: www.annasmucker.com