[sweet review] On the Corner of Chocolate Avenue by Tziporah Cohen and Steven Salerno

“One is only happy in proportion as he makes others feel happy.” ~ Milton Hershey

Go ahead: break off a piece of Hershey bar and savor its rich chocolaty goodness as it slowly melts in your mouth. Mmmmmm! Did you know those rectangular sections are called ‘pips’? 🙂

Hershey’s chocolate defined my childhood.

When I was growing up, I simply had to have a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar whenever I went to the movies or had extra money from my allowance. So much happiness for just a nickel!

We poured Hershey’s syrup into cold milk and over vanilla ice cream, and I’ll always remember the first time I made and devoured my first S’more at Campfire Girls day camp. Marry me, please. And best of all, every Christmas, Grandma Yang would give a five pound box of Hershey’s Kisses to each of her eleven children and their families. The holidays wouldn’t have been the same without those sweet kisses.

You can see why I was excited to see this brand new picture book biography, On the Corner of Chocolate Avenue: How Milton Hershey Brought Milk Chocolate to America by Tziporah Cohen and Steven Salerno (Clarion Books, 2022). Though a longtime Hershey’s fan, I actually knew very little about the life of America’s Chocolate King.

Through hard work and perseverance, a poor boy from Derry Township, Pennsylvania – one who probably never tasted chocolate as a child – grew up to create a chocolate empire as a pioneering confectioner, resilient businessman, and dedicated philanthropist. 

Hershey’s achievements in mass production and bulk export helped to popularize chocolate around the world, making it accessible and affordable for the average consumer.

As the story opens, we see 8-year-old Milton gazing longingly at the sweets displayed in a shop window. Chocolate is a treat solely for the wealthy, and Milton was from a poor family. Since they moved around a lot, he attended six schools in seven years, barely learning how to read.

At age 14, he left school to help support his family. After a brief stint as a printer’s apprentice, he worked at Royer’s Ice Cream Parlor and Garden, where he learned the basics of candy making (ice cream, taffy, lollipops, marshmallows). Seeing candy’s power to make people happy, he decided it would be wonderful to build his own candy business.

Several years later, he borrowed money from his family to open the Spring Garden Confectionery Works in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, this business, as well as two others he started in Chicago and New York, failed.

But Milton loved candy too much to give up, so upon returning to Pennsylvania, he experimented with and perfected a caramel recipe in his one room workshop, adding fresh milk to make his caramels creamy rather than sticky. He then sold a variety of his homemade caramels from a pushcart through the streets of Lancaster.

A natural entrepreneur, Milton soon realized that the best way to make real money was to sell his product on a larger scale, “in big shipments to stores in other cities and countries.” He founded the Lancaster Caramel Company, which was hugely successful, enabling him to export his candies to countries such as England, China, and Australia.

But Hershey didn’t stop there.  Always the innovator looking for new ways of making candy, he fell in love with chocolate while visiting the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

Oh, the mouthwatering aroma of melted chocolate!

He was so fascinated by the German chocolate-making machines he saw there, that he purchased them on the spot and shipped them back home to Pennsylvania, where he established the Hershey Chocolate Company. For him, chocolate was the way to go. As he told his cousin, “The caramel business is a fad. But chocolate is something we will always have.”

His vision was to create a chocolate bar – just for eating– that everyone, not just the rich, could afford and enjoy. It had to melt in your mouth and stay fresh on store shelves.

But it would take years of diligent experimenting, testing, and tasting to make the perfect milk chocolate bar. He even hired scientists and workers from European chocolate companies to learn their secrets. 

Just as he added fresh milk to his caramels, he added milk from local dairies to his chocolate. 

Finally, in 1900, at age 43, he created “America’s first chocolate bar!” He sold the Lancaster Caramel Company for a million dollars, using the proceeds to make even more milk chocolate. He set up assembly lines in his factory, and made his chocolate bars available “in restaurants, drugstores, and grocery stores – not just candy stores – so people could buy them wherever they went.”

The bars were followed by Hershey’s Kisses in 1907 and Hershey’s Syrup in 1926. Hershey built an entire town for his employees to live in, “with tree-lined streets, libraries, schools, trolleys, a swimming pool, affordable homes, and a carousel!” He had the foresight to know that quality of life and a supportive community were essential in creating a happy, more productive workforce.

Probably the most inspiring part of his story was Milton Hershey’s philanthropy. He never forgot what it was like to be poor. He and his wife Catherine (who didn’t have any children of their own), founded the Hershey Industrial School in 1909 to provide a free education for orphaned boys, something he never had. He would later donate his entire fortune ($60 million) to keep the school running indefinitely. 

Milton and Catherine (Kitty) Hershey.

Today, the Milton Hershey School (a private boarding school), provides free education each year for about 2,000 boys and girls from lower income families in grades K-12.

Milton Hershey with some of the students at the Hershey Industrial School.

Steven Salerno’s warm, old-timey illustrations bring Cohen’s succinct narrative to vivid life. His gouache textured digital drawings, rendered in a primary palette of browns, blues, and yellows, capture the ups and downs of Hershey’s life with interesting period details (dress, architecture, vehicles, machinery), dramatic use of scale, and emotive facial expressions and postures.

Not only do I love the different images of chocolate, but also those showing other treats popular in the late 19th century (sugarplums, molasses puffs, peanut brittle, peppermint humbugs, Peerless Wafers, horehound sticks). 

Also interesting is seeing the vintage cooking equipment and candy making tools. The German chocolate machines Hershey was so enamored of are labeled in German and English. Kids may be surprised at how many different machines are actually required in the chocolate making process, and will get an enlightening glimpse of an assembly line. They’ll surely like the double page spread showing hundreds of Hershey’s kisses on a conveyor belt. 

It’s fun to see Hershey hard at work with his many chocolate recipe experiments, whether he’s surrounded by piles of messy copper pots and pans, or contemplating which kind of dairy cow would give milk with less fat. It’s an exciting moment when Hershey, cheered on by a group of employees, triumphantly holds up the winning milk chocolate bar (you gotta love those chocolate smudges on his apron).

On the Corner of Chocolate Avenue proves that sweet rewards come to those who follow their dreams, persist, and aren’t afraid to take risks. Hershey’s story also reminds us of the intrinsic value of sharing one’s largesse, of open heartedly giving back in a true spirit of selflessness. 

Next time you bite into a Hershey bar, whether America’s iconic Milk Chocolate, or any of the other scrumptious varieties (Milk Chocolate with Almonds, Krackel, Cookies ‘n Creme, Gold Bar) remember how very much came from a boy who started out having so little. 

This uplifting, informative, tasty tale is perfect for chocolate lovers, as well as kids who enjoy reading about inventors and/or the science of trial and error and experimentation. Infobit sidebars are scattered throughout the book. Backmatter includes photos, a bibliography, timeline, and suggestions for learning more about Milton Hershey and chocolate. 

Warning: Best to have some Hershey bars on hand since you will be craving chocolate big time after reading this book. Pip pip hooray!


ON THE CORNER OF CHOCOLATE AVENUE: How Milton Hershey Brought Milk Chocolate to America
written by Tziporah Cohen
illustrated by Steven Salerno
published by Clarion Books, December 2022
Picture Book for ages 4-7, 40 pp.
Includes Bibliography, Timeline, Suggestions for Further Research
*Junior Library Guild Gold Selection*

♥️ Check out the Teacher’s Guide.
♥️ Steven Salerno shares some original spreads from the book and discusses how he makes his illustrations in this video.

Yum! So good!

*Interior spreads text copyright © 2022 Tziporah Cohen, illustrations © 2022 Steven Salerno, published by Clarion Books. All rights reserved.

**Copyright © 2023 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

17 thoughts on “[sweet review] On the Corner of Chocolate Avenue by Tziporah Cohen and Steven Salerno

    1. Your Grandma Yang’s gift of Kisses was so sweet. I am inspired by her example and may just follow it and treat my own grandkids with Kisses at Easter – along with a sufficient number of bunnies and Robin eggs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Robins eggs were always my favorite in my Easter basket — along with chocolate marshmallow bunnies. Yes, I think your grandkids need some Kisses this year. 🙂


    1. I think today’s Hershey bars are smaller than the ones I remember from childhood. Everything’s shrinking these days. . . I also miss the double wrapping.


  1. I don’t remember much about being 8, except getting to go on a trip to Hershey and it was one of the most memorable times of my life! Back then you could go back to the assembly lines and see the big vats of chocolate. I still have sweet dreams about it! :–)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been there once as an adult — I think it would have been more magical had I been 8 like you were. Still a sweet, delicious time, though.


  2. Oh my goodness, chocolate! I am a big fan. Okay, addict! I also like how Hershey persisted in spite of so many failures. I didn’t know about the school—what a nice man!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It looks, also ‘tastes’, like a wonderful book, Jama. It is fun to me to think that we say “Hershey” bars as if that’s a kind of chocolate, not just his name. One family of relatives visited Hershey, PA one time & I was so jealous. I’ve never been. What an inspiring story of a special man! Thanks so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Enjoyed your review — and I like that book cover. 🙂 I guess gambling wouldn’t have been a good detail to include in a children’s book. 🙂


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