The Chocolate Tree: A Mayan Folktale

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sara Lorimer
This interesting folktale tells the story of how chocolate was brought to earth by Kukulk the feathered serpent 1,000 years ago. The Maya lived in the rain forest in what is now Mexico, growing "beans and squash and sweet potatoes. They grew maize, a type of corn. How did these crops get to Mexico? Well, that's an interesting part of the Mayan story. They came from paradise!" Kukulk spent most of his time on earth and wanted the Mayan people to be happy. He taught them how to grow corn and make tortillas, gave them books and a calendar, "and he taught them how to sing and dance." In appreciation, the Maya built him a stone temple, Chichn Itza and Kukulk lived in it. Life was good "but every happy story has a dark side, too. And now it is time for you to meet Night Jaguar, Kulkulk's twin brother. Night Jaguar knew that chocolate was the only thing that the gods had and wanted to keep it in paradise. Kukulk felt he should share the wealth and snuck a cacao tree back to earth on the morning star. He showed the Maya how to make chocolate, "the drink of the gods." For this, he was punished by the other gods and forbidden ever to enter paradise again. "So the next time you have a sip of warm cocoa just think how lucky you are. Think of Kukulk riding to Earth on the morning star to bring chocolate to the Mayan people." This book would work well for discussions of Mexican history, cooking, and most of all chocolate. Younger children will like the plot, but the story might drag on a bit for them. The illustrations work well with the text. Back matter includes suggestions for further reading, an authors' note on how they incorporated different versions of the story, and a glossary with amuch-needed pronunciation guide (chee-CHEN-eet-ZAH! coo-cook-KAHN!). Reviewer: Sara Lorimer
School Library Journal

Gr 2-5

These folktales are separated into sections, giving them the appearance of early chapter books. The large-print texts, accompanied by bright watercolor illustrations, reflect the culture from which they originated while remaining straightforward and concise, keeping emerging readers in mind. In the first book, Tsukahara Bokuden, a nobleman, bests a warrior who tries to get on a ferry before everyone else and then demands another man's seat. The afterword explains that the protagonist was a real person. The second book explains how King Kukulkán gave his people the gift of chocolate in spite of making the other gods angry. Although not as carefully illustrated as picture-book folktales, and not outstanding as read-alouds, these books are useful choices for beginning readers.-Sarah O'Holla, Village Community School, New York City

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822575450
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/2008
  • Series: On My Own Folklore Series
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 7 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: 490L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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