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The $150,000 Rugelach

Jack dreams of becoming the most famous pastry chef in the world. Jillian loves to bake but doesn’t want to be on TV. Can this mismatched pair win the $150,000 prize in the Bakerstown Bonanza?
Ages 9+
Pages 231
Publisher Little Bee Books
Coming Dec 2021
Awards
PJ Our Way Author Incentive Award Winner

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What the Book Is About

11-year-old Jillian Mermelstein’s mother taught her to bake. But ever since her mother died, Jillian’s having a hard time getting back in the kitchen. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Jack Fineman has always dreamed of becoming a world-famous baker. When the nationally televised Bakerstown Bonanza announces that kids will be allowed to compete for the first time ever, Jack signs up right away. Jillian has no interest in the contest… but her family could really use the $150,000 grand prize. 

When Jack and Jillian are selected to compete together, they work hard to agree on a winning recipe. But when Phineas Farnsworth, owner of the Farnsworth baking empire and judge of the Bakerstown Bonanza, wants Jillian to share the story of her mother’s death with viewers, it looks like their chances of winning are in danger. Can Jack and Jillian stay true to their values and please Phineas Farnsworth?

Jewish Content & Values

  • Jillian makes challah and recites the Sabbath prayers after her mother dies. She brings rugelach to school, and the traditional Eastern European Jewish dessert becomes central to the story.
  • Jack’s great-grandparents owned a bakery, where they made traditional desserts for each Jewish holiday, and they worked every day except Shabbat. At Hanukkah, Jack makes brownies for the class, cuts them into Star of David shapes and adds wooden dreidels to the plate.

Positive Role Models

  • Jillian is a devoted daughter and granddaughter, and she works hard to honor her mother’s memory.
  • Jack Fineman is a funny, creative, and hardworking boy who refuses to lose sight of his big dreams.
  • Jillian’s Grandma Rita is a smart, spunky, independent, competent, and loving source of support for Jillian.
  • Jillian’s father, Mr. Mermelstein, works two jobs to support his family. He’s supportive of Jillian and gives Jillian her mother’s baking notebook.

Content Advisory

Jillian’s mother dies of cancer before the start of the book, and Jillian misses her throughout the story.
 

Talk It Over

Jack and Jillian make cricket cookies for a homework assignment. What’s the wackiest thing you’ve ever eaten? Do you like to try new foods?
 

More for You

Rugelach (Yiddish for “little twists”) is a quintessential Jewish pastry originating from Polish Jewish communities. Rugelach are made by rolling a triangle of dough around a sweet filling, resulting in a crescent shaped dessert. These desserts were first popularized in the United States in 1939, when Jewish bakeries first offered a rolled cookie made from a yeast-free dough using the relatively new invention of cream cheese. While traditional fillings include chocolate, cinnamon, and fruit preserves, modern chefs are experimenting with savory fillings such as chicken, salmon, and spicy pizza.
What the Book Is About

What the Book Is About

11-year-old Jillian Mermelstein’s mother taught her to bake. But ever since her mother died, Jillian’s having a hard time getting back in the kitchen. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Jack Fineman has always dreamed of becoming a world-famous baker. When the nationally televised Bakerstown Bonanza announces that kids will be allowed to compete for the first time ever, Jack signs up right away. Jillian has no interest in the contest… but her family could really use the $150,000 grand prize. 

When Jack and Jillian are selected to compete together, they work hard to agree on a winning recipe. But when Phineas Farnsworth, owner of the Farnsworth baking empire and judge of the Bakerstown Bonanza, wants Jillian to share the story of her mother’s death with viewers, it looks like their chances of winning are in danger. Can Jack and Jillian stay true to their values and please Phineas Farnsworth?

Jewish Content & Values

  • Jillian makes challah and recites the Sabbath prayers after her mother dies. She brings rugelach to school, and the traditional Eastern European Jewish dessert becomes central to the story.
  • Jack’s great-grandparents owned a bakery, where they made traditional desserts for each Jewish holiday, and they worked every day except Shabbat. At Hanukkah, Jack makes brownies for the class, cuts them into Star of David shapes and adds wooden dreidels to the plate.

Positive Role Models

  • Jillian is a devoted daughter and granddaughter, and she works hard to honor her mother’s memory.
  • Jack Fineman is a funny, creative, and hardworking boy who refuses to lose sight of his big dreams.
  • Jillian’s Grandma Rita is a smart, spunky, independent, competent, and loving source of support for Jillian.
  • Jillian’s father, Mr. Mermelstein, works two jobs to support his family. He’s supportive of Jillian and gives Jillian her mother’s baking notebook.

Content Advisory

Jillian’s mother dies of cancer before the start of the book, and Jillian misses her throughout the story.
 

Talk It Over

Jack and Jillian make cricket cookies for a homework assignment. What’s the wackiest thing you’ve ever eaten? Do you like to try new foods?
 

More for You

Rugelach (Yiddish for “little twists”) is a quintessential Jewish pastry originating from Polish Jewish communities. Rugelach are made by rolling a triangle of dough around a sweet filling, resulting in a crescent shaped dessert. These desserts were first popularized in the United States in 1939, when Jewish bakeries first offered a rolled cookie made from a yeast-free dough using the relatively new invention of cream cheese. While traditional fillings include chocolate, cinnamon, and fruit preserves, modern chefs are experimenting with savory fillings such as chicken, salmon, and spicy pizza.