Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

No Monkeys, No Chocolate

No Monkeys, No Chocolate

Melissa Stewart, Allen Young
Illustrator:  Nicole Wong 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Charlesbridge, 2013   ISBN: 978-1580892872

People all over the world love chocolate. They love their chocolate chip cookies, their brownies, and their chocolate ice cream. What is surprising is that most of us really don’t know much about chocolate.  Where does chocolate come from?

   The first thing you need if you are going to make chocolate are cocoa beans, which are found inside cocoa pods, which grown on cocoa trees. The problem is that cocoa trees only thrive if they get a little help. A number of animal species interact with the plant in a variety of ways and the trees only do well if those interactions take place.

  The story begins with monkeys. Monkeys love to eat the soft pulp inside the cocoa pods, and as they move through the forest they spit out the cocoa beans. These beans fall to the ground, germinate and grow into seedlings and then, over time, into cocoa trees. The trees produce flowers, which are pollinated by little midges that like to feast on the cocoa flower’s pollen. Only if the flowers are pollinated will the cocoa tree be able to grow a cocoa pod from that flower.

   Other animals all play an important part in the cocoa tree story. Leaf-cutter ants cut up the trees leaves, but if the tree is lucky coffin flies lay eggs inside the heads of ants. When the eggs catch the maggots end up killing the ants.  Aphids also damage the tree by sucking up the sugary juices that are produced inside the leaves. Anole lizards soon make short work of the aphids, happily eating them and any other insects that they find.

   In this fascinating book readers will learn about all cocoa trees and they will come to realize that these trees depend on an intricate little ecosystem that is inhabited by insects, reptiles, monkeys and other creatures.  For this reason cocoa trees do not do well when they are planted in groves in a farm-like setting. They do best when they a grown in a rain forest where they can be visited by the animals that help them to survive.

   In addition to reading the main story, readers can also enjoy the conversations that take place between two bookworms. The bookworms can be found in the right hand corner of every spread, and children will enjoy reading what the funny little animals say.

   At the back of the book the authors provide readers with further information about cocoa trees and rainforests, and they tell readers what they can do to help protect rain forests. An author’s note also explains how the authors came to write this book.