This clever circular tale with a curious title opens with a common scene: a party including chocolaty treats. The authors explain, “[Y]ou can’t make chocolate without… / …cocoa beans.” With the turn of the page, readers find themselves in the rain forest microhabitat of the cocoa tree.
In each spread, the authors take children backward through the life cycle of the tree: pods, flowers, leaves, stems, roots and back to beans. The interdependence of plants and animals is introduced in the process: Midges carry pollen from one flower to another; aphids destroying tender stems are kept in check by an anole. Graceful ink-and-watercolor illustrations range from an expansive view of the rain forest to a close-up of aphids. Explanations are delivered in a simple manner that avoids terms such as pollination or germination. “Bookworm” commentators in the corner of each spread either reinforce the concept—“No lizards, no chocolate”—or echo youngsters’ impatience: “I thought this book was supposed to be about monkeys.” Indeed, the book closes with a monkey sitting in a branch with an open pod, eating the pulp and spitting out the beans, which fall to the ground and take root: no monkeys, no chocolate. Backmatter helps young naturalists understand why conservation and careful stewardship is important.
Children—and more than a few adults—will find this educational you-are-there journey to the rain forest fascinating.(Informational picture book. 4-8)