Although she was born in Albany in upstate New York, Elizabeth Zunon (a multi-talented artist, jewelry maker, chocolate lover and author/illustrator of children’s books, spent her childhood in Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) in West Africa. Zunon’s first, of now three authored-illustrated picture books, was published only last year.
Grandpa Cacao, A Tale of Chocolate, From Farm To Family (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, New York, NY 2019) in thirty wonderful pages, pictures a young girl baking a chocolate cake with her dad. It also includes a Chocolate Celebration Cake Recipe, which readers will be very tempted to prepare immediately after or perhaps even during their reading the book with young children. The main ingredient of the simple cake recipe, 4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, is important to the story.
Zunon provides an easy-to-understand lesson on where chocolate comes from, including the history and science of chocolate. A concise, three paragraph description, From Bean To Treat, of how a chocolate bar is made should interest all readers, children and adults. She also describes straight-forwardly and simply The Realities Of The Cacao Trade and why a consumer should look for chocolate that is certified as Fair Trade. [Our directory of fair trade chocolate makers now includes nearly three dozen listings from California to Washington state in the U.S. and in Canada.]
But at the heart of this uplifting story is a big and emotional birthday surprise connecting the young girl to her African grandfather. Grandpa Cacao is visiting the young girl’s family in America for the first time. The artistic blend of paint, collage and screen-printed figures that illustrate the emotional story of a family reuniting are superb.
Elizabeth Zunon’s Grandpa Cacao is a rich and emotional tale, yet it is gently told and perfect for young children. It is a story that children very likely will want to hear read numerous times. Perhaps, to some extent, they will also be thinking about another chocolate cake to enjoy as a special treat. But guaranteed, they will also be thinking about a hug from their own granddad or grandma. Love for a special grandparent is certainly close to universal . . . as is love for chocolate.
(Frank W. Barrie, 8/14/20)