Chocolate is so popular. What better way to get children to delve into reading than offering books on a topic they love? Today we have a beginning reader and a young adult title, both of which will make you crave some chocolate. Better have some on hand before you read them!
The Sweet Story of Hot Chocolate! (History of Fun Stuff) by Stephen Krensky and illustrated by Rob McClurkan helps beginning readers become History of Fun Stuff experts on chocolate.
Written with a breezy conversational style so appropriate for a fun topic like this, the book follows the history of chocolate from the Olmec people of Central America to how it is consumed around the world today. You will recognize many of the famous people named, including Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, as well as industry names such as Hershey and Cadbury. Did you know cacao beans were once so valuable that they were used as money? Fascinating!
The back matter is includes a significant amount of information on the rainforests where cacao trees grow, other foods that came from the New World, and other unusual items used as money. The final page is a quiz to help reinforce learning.
Although it is a Level 3 Ready-to-Read, the text is interesting enough and complex enough that it would be appropriate for older reluctant and struggling readers, too. In fact, adults looking for a quick summary of the history of chocolate are likely to find it useful. Highly recommended!
Age Range: 6 – 8 years
Publisher: Simon Spotlight (October 28, 2014)
Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treatby Kay Frydenborg covers much of the same history as the beginning reader above, but also packs in science plus a serious look at environmental issues and the cultural impacts of chocolate.
I don’t usually do this, but I’m going to start by pointing out that a number of reviewers found this book had too much science in it. It is understandable that when someone picks up a book about chocolate, they might want something as light and sweet as the treat. Having just spent time teaching high school chemistry, however, I think there are definitely young adults out there who will appreciate reading about the chemistry of chocolate and will understand the difference between theobromine and anandamide. In the same vein, readers interested in biology will find sections on plant breeding and genetics intriguing. Those who skip or skim those parts will still find plenty to engage them, from the history of Hershey to the recipes for chocolate desserts sprinkled throughout.
Most of the book is illustrated with small black-and-white photographs, although there is cluster of pages of color photos inset into the center. The back matter includes a timeline and bibliography, as well as website resources and an index.
Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat may not be light and frothy, but it is an in-depth look at a popular food for the serious reader.
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (April 7, 2015)
Disclosure: Both of these books were from the library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.
Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.