Grandpa Cacao

Written & Illustrated by: Elizabeth Zunon

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Family, African Culture & Traditions, Love, Farming, Agriculture, Chocolate, Community, Cooking.

Summary: This story follows tangential plot-lines of a little girl making her favorite chocolate birthday cake recipe for herself, and also learning about her grandfather who is a farmer, owning a cacao farm.  The book is set up to show the parallels between the main character and her grandfather, because they have never met.  As her father guides her through the cake making process, we learn about both the steps in the cacao harvesting and drying process as well as the characteristics the two share.  They both word hard and have “boat-wide feet”, along with several other important skills like smelling rain or cold weather.

As the cake gets closer to being done, so does the cacao drying process, and the main character learns about how her grandfather and father would go to the market to sell the  dried cacao to chocolate processors.  Afterwards, the pair would surprise her grandmother at her fruit stand!

Now that the cake is finished, our birthday girl is really wondering where her mother could have gone, and when they can eat the cake.  Suddenly the door opens, it’s her mother and an older man she’s never met before.  She studies him for a moment…they both have the same ears, eyes, and smile.  It’s her grandfather, all the way from Africa!  He brings her a cacao fruit, and the book ends with their embrace.

This is a great book, very informative!  In the back is information about cacao and the cacao trade, including information about how to support businesses that do not exploit child labor.  There is also a map and the history of chocolate, as well as the cake recipe mentioned in the book.

Reflection Questions:

  • What is something you learned when reading the book?
  • Do you have any family that lives far away?
  • How would you feel if they surprised you on your birthday?
  • What do you think would be the most fun part about the chocolate-making process?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Watch a video about the chocolate-making process.  Are there other places in the world besides Africa that cacao grows?

About the Author & Illustrator:

71zhtxpjlql._us230_Elizabeth Zunon was born in Albany, NY and spent her childhood in a hot, sunny, tropical country in West Africa called the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), where people speak French (and many other languages). Elizabeth’s Mom read Elizabeth’s little brother and Elizabeth a lot of bedtime stories in English after they came home from speaking French all day at school. As a little girl, she loved to draw, paint, make up dances and play dress-up, and as Elizabeth grew up, that didn’t really change! After returning to the United States, Elizabeth attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and graduated in June 2006 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration.  She’s now back in Albany, where every day she might draw, paint, collage, sew, silkscreen, make jewelry, purses, and ponder the endless possibilities of chocolate! Her work is largely influenced by the people, places, and things from her childhood in the Ivory Coast as the product of two cultures.  You can also follow her blog-Lizzie Blogs!

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