CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 17 . . . .April 13, 2007
Sweet! The Delicious Story of Candy.
Ann Love & Jane Drake. Illustrated by Claudia Dávila.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2007.
64 pp., cloth, $24.99.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Gail Hamilton.
At the marriage banquet for the Duke of Burgundy and an English princess in 1468, scenes from the duke's orchards were presented in thirty subleties. Each showcased a different fruit tree, surrounded by dancing harvesters. Little baskets carried by the figures were filled with tiny candied fruits and nuts for the guests to nibble on.
Talk about eye candy! From its vibrant appealing cover, featuring an enlarged photograph of multi-coloured jelly beans, to the fun facts presented inside, this book is guaranteed to please. Sweet! traces the history and development of candy from 6000 B.C. to the present. The text, conversational in style, is divided into five main chapters. In the first section, readers will learn about sweet cravings, the role that senses play in the desire for sweets, and the derivation of sweet flavours- animals and plants. A world map indicates candy preferences in different countries, some of which are "curly-murlies" in Scotland, baguette and chocolate bar sandwiches in France and candied pumpkin in Mexico.
The second section covers early discoveries of natural sweeteners and other foods which form the basis of many candies and chocolate bars today, specifically honey, sweet milk, maple syrup, fruit, nuts and gums. Aboriginal people from the Plains, for instance, rolled berry paste flat and left it to dry in the sun to form chewy fruit leather while Arabs invented the lozenge, likely using gum from the acacia tree to harden fruit syrup.
Sugar candy is the focus of the third chapter. Featured here are the chemistry of sugar, types of sugar and their manufacture, and the myriad sweets- saltwater taffy, fudge and ice cream, to name a few- whose recipes include sugar. One of the most interesting anecdotes explains the use of "subleties" in 15th century medieval Europe. Subleties were spectacular banquet table decorations made from marzipan or sugar paste and shaped into tiny trees, animals and people. Readers' parents who might glance through this book can take a trip down memory lane as the authors describe various treats found in the candy stores a few decades ago- wax bottles filled with sweet liquids, black balls, Pixy Stix and strawberry marshmallows.
The fourth chapter is devoted to chocolate. Historians believe that this delicious treat was discovered between 1500 and 400 B.C. by an Olmec woman in Mexico. She picked a pod from the cacao tree and broke it open to find cacao beans. The rest, as they say, is history. Highlighted in this chapter are the various forms of chocolate and their importance in different countries, the chemistry of chocolate, and how chocolate bars are made. Interesting to note is that a Canadian from the Ganong factory created a 5-cent chocolate bar in 1898, two years before Hershey. And, lastly, to make chocolate even more enticing, the authors point out the health benefits of dark chocolate, a rich source of flavonoids.
Finally, the last section covers such sweets as popsicles, cotton candy and PEZ as well as the big names in chocolate- Hershey, Godiva and Mars- and how they appeal to the consumer. Studies have shown that buyers recognize chocolate bars on the grocer's shelf first by the wrapper colour, second by the shape of the logo and then by name.
Throughout the book there are interesting facts, some of them located in the body of the text and some embedded in the time line (6000 B.C. to 2006 A.D.) which continues along the bottom of each page. For example, Snickers, the best-selling chocolate bar of all time, was named after one of the candy manufacturer's family horses; the town of Hershey boasts streetlights in the shape of Hershey Kisses; and in 2005, Grade 6 students from Thunder Bay, Ontario, figured out that the 4 billion Smarties eaten by Canadians every year would circle the globe once.
Despite their bright colours and their cartoon-like quality, the illustrations are rather flat and lifeless. However, the true star of the show is the engaging text, and so readers might forgive the lackluster illustrations. A table of contents is provided.
Whether it was developed by accident, mistake, or carefully documented experimentation, candy has satisfied the sweet tooth of people all over the world for centuries. Mouth-watering, tantalizing, educational and fun, this book features more kinds of candy than a sweet shop.
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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