[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.

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[soupy review + recipe] Brand-New Bubbe by Sarah Aronson and Ariel Landy

What is the secret ingredient that makes for a good soup and a happy family?

Just take a big slurp of Brand-New Bubbe, a brand new picture book by Sarah Aronson and Ariel Landy (Charlesbridge, 2022) to find out.

In this savory story, Jillian is happy to get a nice stepdad when her mom marries Michael. But who ever said anything about a new grandmother?

Jillian already has two: Noni and Gram. Nope, she definitely doesn’t need another one.

Yet here is this frizzy red-haired person asking to be called “Bubbe,” who just doesn’t get the hint. She smothers Jillian with “bright red kissy-lips,” makes plans for holidays Jillian’s never heard of, and is always “kvelling” (or is it “kvetching?”). 

This Bubbe even has the nerve to declare her matzo ball soup the best in the universe! Jillian can’t believe her ears! Nothing can beat Noni’s meatball soup – “except maybe Gram’s spicy gazpacho.”

This definitely calls for a protest!

No matter what Bubbe does, Jillian resists:  she ignores the teddy bear Bubbe gives her, refuses to shoot hoops with her, won’t eat the dinner Bubbe makes with all of Jillian’s favorite foods. 

Not surprisingly, Jillian’s petulance upsets her mother, who urges her – in no uncertain terms – to give Bubbe a chance. When Jillian asserts that she’s not technically related to Bubbe, Mom reminds her that “family is more than blood.” 

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[clucky review] Eggs from Red Hen Farm by Monica Wellington

What do crêpes, soufflés, frittatas, and quiches have in common? Why, yes, they’re all made with eggs!

Unless they’re from a family that raises chickens, many kids see eggs in the fridge or grocery store without ever considering where they came from. 

In Monica Wellington’s brand new interactive picture book, Eggs From Red Hen Farm: Farm to Table with Mazes and Maps (Holiday House, 2022), young readers are invited to tag along as two happy young farmers take their eggs to market. 

The story opens with Ruby and Ned collecting eggs from their hen house. After they sort and count the eggs, they load them onto their red truck. Off they go, “past the ponies, the fire station, and the bulldozer, to the farmers’ market.”

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[livre délicieux] Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution by Diane Stanley and Jessie Hartland

I first learned about chef, author, restaurateur and food activist Alice Waters back in the mid 90s, when I read her mouthwatering children’s book, Fanny at Chez Panisse (HarperCollins, 1992).

I’d never encountered anything like it before – wonderful restaurant stories + delectable, doable recipes. It totally charmed my socks off, set me on a quest to read as many food-related children’s books as possible, and most importantly, made me think differently about food.

Alice Waters at Chez Panisse.

Thanks to Alice’s dedicated efforts– spanning at least five decades – we’ve become more conscious about what and how we eat. We may be more inclined to choose fresh, healthy foods, as opposed to that which is convenient, processed and mass produced. We’ve also learned that eating with a conscience affects not only our personal well being, but the health of our planet.

In their brand new picture book biography, Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution (Paula Wiseman Books, 2022), Diane Stanley and Jessie Hartland introduce young readers to the culinary visionary who popularized organic foods, local sustainable agriculture, and the slow food and farm-to-table movements. She is often called the Mother of American Food. 

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[sippable review + giveaway] The Chocolate King by Michael Leventhal and Laura Catalán

What could be more comforting on a cold winter’s day than rich, velvety hot chocolate? Sip the steamy, frothy goodness from your favorite cup and all’s right with the world.

No matter how you get your daily chocolate fix – bar, bonbon, chip or cocoa – a good way to enhance your enjoyment is to learn more about chocolate’s fascinating history.

Like me, some of you fellow chocoholics are familiar with chocolate’s origins in Mesoamerica and how Don Hernán Cortés brought cacao to Spain after conquering the Aztecs in the early 16th century. But did you know Jewish traders played a critical role in popularizing chocolate around the world?

In his debut picture book, The Chocolate King (Apples & Honey Press, 2022), Michael Leventhal highlights chocolate’s little known Jewish connection. When Spanish Jews were forced to flee the country during the Inquisition, they took their chocolate making skills with them.

This tasty bit of historical fiction is set in early 17th century Bayonne, where we meet young chocolate lover Benjamin. Not only does he love to eat chocolate, he knows more about it “than most people in the whole of France.” 

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