“Chocolate is my most favorite thing ever,” the narrator of Zunon’s family story declares. On her birthday, she and her father make a chocolate cake. As they prepare the ingredients, the father remembers his childhood on his father’s cacao farm on the Ivory Coast: “ ‘The air, the rain, and the soil must be just right for growing cacao.’ Daddy holds a sieve over the mixing bowl, and I pour in the flour.” As a young man, he helped to bag the cacao beans for buyers and liked to taste the cacao fruit pulp. Harvest scenes feature screen-printed white figures over painted backgrounds, while contemporary scenes integrate collage accents. A surprise visit brings the story full circle as Zunon conveys how scents and shared recipes can connect the past to the present. Back matter includes a cake recipe and information about how chocolate is made. Ages 3–6. (May)
“Evocative . . . sure to expand the minds of children, this is an engaging multicultural addition for a public library picture book collection.” School Library Journal, starred review
“Replete with sensory details, and two spreads of backmatter round out the informational content, including maps, history, and a cake recipe. Delectable treats plus family history make this a sweet story to share.” Kirkus Reviews
“Gracefully intertwines the past and present.” Booklist
“Striking oil paint, collage, and screen-printed illustrations . . . point to the importance of traditions to those in the African diaspora when they settle in new places.” Horn Book Magazine
“Zunon conveys how scents and shared recipes can connect the past to the present.” Publishers Weekly
“Elizabeth Zunon's warm, bright illustrations provide a cheerful balance, but it's the ache of a parent's absence that most powerfully animates the book.” The New York Times Book Review on POEMS IN THE ATTIC
“This book will appeal to adults eager to impart an uplifting Third World human-interest story, but it is also sure to resonate with children who will simply love the curiosity, resilience and resourcefulness of this doughty African youth.” The Wall Street Journal on THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND
“The co-authors have collaborated with artist Elizabeth Zunon on a powerful, gorgeously illustrated children's book.” The Boston Globe on THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND
PreS-K—While waiting for her mother, a girl and her father make a cake to celebrate her birthday using one very important ingredient: cacao. The father invokes the memory of Grandpa Cacao, who finds the most joy in his cacao farm in Ivory Coast, Africa. Zunon's first authored–illustrated picture book takes readers back and forth between the girl's kitchen and the grandfather's farm. The first person narration is evocative. Six-line paragraphs accompany art created with oil paint and collage with screen print. The illustrations have a majestic feeling, as though the main characters control the scene. Moreover, this large scale encourages the readers' eyes to focus on the charismatic pictorial elements, which utilize colors to elicit an emotional connection. The back matter contains author's notes referencing the reality of the cacao trade and child labor, information about the science behind chocolate and the first people who tried chocolate, an explanation of the production process, and a chocolate cake recipe. VERDICT With an educational approach sure to expand the minds of children, this is an engaging multicultural addition for a public library picture book collection.–Kathia Ibacache, Simi Valley Public Library, CA
Zunon writes and illustrates an ode to her grandfather, a cacao worker in the Ivory Coast, through the eyes of a young girl.
As they bake their favorite chocolate cake for her birthday, the girl's father tells her that chocolate is a gift from farmers like her grandpa, and she asks him to tell her about Grandpa Cacao again. As they mix their cake batter, the pictures show her father's homeland, "where the air breathes hot and damp, thick with stories and music and the languages of people from tiny villages and big cities." He describes the hard work Grandpa Cacao did on the farm, carrying heavy loads, picking ripe fruit, scooping out the cacao pods, spreading them out to dry. As they put their cake in the oven, the little girl wonders what special treat her mother is bringing home for her birthday. When the doorbell rings, she is thrilled to meet the best surprise ever. Zunon's familiar paint-and-collage illustrations use glowing brown faces and natural tones in the girl's story and white, screen-printed human figures against painted backgrounds in the father's story set in the Ivory Coast. The story is replete with sensory details, and two spreads of backmatter round out the informational content, including maps, history, and a cake recipe.
Delectable treats plus family history make this a sweet story to share. (Picture book. 5-9)