Reading with Be’chol Lashon: Jalapeño Bagels

Be’chol Lashon Review

Jalapeño Bagels is a book written by Natasha Wing and illustrated by Robert Casilla. Natasha Wing is an American children’s book author of the popular The Night Before series. Natasha’s curiosity around holidays and multicultural traditions motivated her to write stories that help children navigate complex identities.

International Day is approaching at Pablo’s school. Each student must bring something that represents their cultural heritage. Pablo struggles to think of something that honors both his Jewish father and his Mexican mother. Pablo’s mother suggests that he bring something to share from the family bakery, but what treat is the perfect mix of Jewish and Mexican? Pablo chooses jalapeño bagels!

Young Jews today are growing up in a connected, globalized world. That means they encounter challenging viewpoints, contrary experiences and differing values. They must also deal with the fact that they, themselves, are developing multiple identities. The ways that Jews identify are countless and all Jews today are “Jewish&.”

Author Natasha Wing

But this is nothing new. Race and ethnicity are important elements in shaping Jewish identity and expression. The original multicultural people, Jews have lived around the world for millennia. Whether through birth, intermarriage, conversion or adoption, we are more diverse than many assume. Approximately 20% of American Jews are non-white or non-Ashkenazi.

Young Jews develop and embrace global identities and diverse friendship circles. Diversity and inclusion are important components of the value system of most young people today, and a key lens through which they make choices about engaging in Jewish life.

Many Jews, especially Jews of color, do not fit into single categories and it can be challenging to navigate multiple identities. Cultural competence, the ability to navigate different cultures, is a necessity. Examining Jewish peoplehood involves taking seriously the diversity of Jews and the complexity of our history. It gives us an opportunity to explore the many rivers, as Langston Hughes put it, flowing through our veins and into our family’s collective memory.

While this book is intended for kindergarten to third grade readers, we encourage people of all ages to utilize this resource for discussions around multicultural identity and cultural competence.


Discussion Questions

  1. What is your Jewish& story? How is your Jewish& story similar to Pablo’s? How is it different?
  2. Think about your family’s favorite recipe. What makes this recipe unique to your family? What story does your family’s favorite dish tell? What culture(s) does this dish represent? What does this dish say about your cult re?
  3. In what ways does food help us explore different cultures? How does food help us bring cultures together?

Cooking Activity: Chango Bars

For International Day at school, Pablo wants to bring a treat from his family’s multicultural bakery, but he has a hard time deciding between his mother’s Mexican sweets and his father’s Jewish treats. Though Pablo did not end up bringing these chango bars, the recipe from the back of the book is too good not to pass along!


1 c. butter
2 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
2 1/3 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt 1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. mixed nuts


Melt butter. While butter is melting, cream brown sugar and eggs, then add melted butter.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt and stir into sugar mixture.
Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.
Pour mixture into greased 9” x 13” baking pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

The recipe is from a real multicultural bakery, Los Bagels Bakery & Café.

Read more on these topics: