Review: Grandpa Cacao by Elizabeth Zunon

Grandpa Cacao by Elizabeth Zunon

Grandpa Cacao by Elizabeth Zunon (9781681196404)

A little girl and her Daddy are making her birthday cake, a chocolate one. As they bake the cake, her father tells her about Grandpa Cacao who lives in the Ivory Coast and has a cacao farm. The book looks at the importance of the right soil and weather to grow cacao as well as the skill to know when precisely to harvest the crop. The process of harvest and then scooping out the white beans, curing them in the ground, and then drying them is shown in detail. All the while, the girl and her father are baking together, the smell and taste of the chocolate bridging the two story lines. In the end, as the cake is finished, the little girl gets a special birthday treat.

Zunon’s picture book tells the important tale of where chocolate comes from and the fascinating process of going from farm to product that is not at all what one might expect. The framing of the chocolate farming process by a girl about to celebrate her birthday with a chocolate cake is lovely. It is strengthened even more by her family connection to the Ivory Coast and her grandfather’s farm. The treat at the end makes that even more firmly and tangible for readers.

The illustrations by the author are cleverly done. The little girl’s world is done in full color collages filled with rich touches of patterns and textures. The African farm is done in a more flat format with the people simply white outlines against the landscape. When the two worlds come together, they both become full color and lush.

Everyone loves chocolate and this book explains how it comes to our tables. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

 

 

Review: No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart

no monkeys no chocolate

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young, illustrated by Nicole Wong

A close-up look at the favorite sweet treat of chocolate, this nonfiction picture book explains exactly what it takes to get chocolate.  The book quickly moves to the tropical rain forests of Central and South America and the cocoa beans that grow there and how they are treated to get cocoa powder from them.  The book then moves to explaining cocoa pods, cocoa flowers, and cocoa leaves, but animals quickly come into the process from the midges that pollinate the cocoa flowers as they lay their eggs to the maggots of the coffin flies that take over the brains of the leaf-cutter ants.  Lizards and monkeys play a role too, but the monkeys are tantalizingly left to the end of the book.  Told in factual information, the book also offers asides by two funny bookworms who wonder along with the reader what in the world monkeys have to do with chocolate!

This is a fascinating look at the complexities of something that many of us take for granted.  Stewart, author of over 150 nonfiction books for children, worked with Allen Young, the world specialist on cocoa tree pollination and growth.  The result is a book that is enticing both in its premise and its execution.  Turning pages lets you learn more and the entire process is both odd and amazing.

The art by Wong has a wonderful lightness to it that fits the subject particularly well.  The clever little bookworms add a whimsical note to the entire book with their ballooned speech bubbles, ballcap, flower and skirt. 

A winner of a nonfiction picture book, this is one sweet addition to any library.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

Book Review: Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan

betty bunny

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch

Betty Bunny’s parents are always telling her that she’s a handful.  Since she knows they love her very much, she is certain that being a handful is something very, very good.  One day, her mother offers chocolate cake for dessert.  Betty Bunny refuses to try it at first, because it is new, but then gives in.  She realizes that it is very delicious, so delicious that she decides that she will marry chocolate cake.  The next day, she is obsessed with chocolate cake, unable to concentrate at all at school.  Once she got home, she was told she would have to eat a healthy dinner before she could have cake.  When her siblings tease her, Betty gets angry and throws food.  She’s sent to her room where she continues to think only of cake.  The next day, she is told there is a piece of cake just for her waiting in the refrigerator if only she will be patient through the day.  Betty Bunny knows the cake will be lonely all day, so she puts it in her pocket.  At home that evening, she realizes it has become a goopy mess in her pocket.  Her mother tries again, leaving a piece of cake just for her.  What in the world could Betty do next?

I know that this book will have some parents frustrated because it is not a picture book that demonstrates exemplary behavior from the children in the story.  But that is where the appeal of this book is for me.  Betty Bunny reads as a real child with an obsession.  She cries, gets angry, and thinks about it all the time.  But this book is not just about a child obsessed.  It is also the story of a family with older siblings and parents who use humor and clever approaches to deal with a child. 

The writing has wonderful moments built into it.  Betty’s insistence that she will marry chocolate cake because she loves it so much rings very real.  Her brother’s teasing about that over the course of days also reads as true.  It is a picture book that is written by people who have children, love children, and appreciate the humor that comes with them.

Jorisch’s illustrations are done in pencil, ink, watercolor and gouache.  They have a great mix of organic watercolor feel and angular modernism.  There is a bright warmth to them thanks to how colorful they are and a pleasant busyness that depicts the active family.

Highly recommended, this is not a book for parents who want an example for how their children should act.  But it is a great read-aloud filled with chocolate, sweets, temper tantrums and family.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

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