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On the Corner of Chocolate Avenue - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Although I love chocolate, I hate to admit that I might be one of the few people who have not sought out a biography on Milton Hershey. So, I found this book fascinating, enlightening, and encouraging. As well as crave inducing. It's a great reminder to never give up on our dreams and a sweet treat for candy lovers.

On the Corner of Chocolate Avenue: How Milton Hershey Brought Milk Chocolate to America


Author: Tziporah Cohen


Illustrator: Steven Salerno


Publisher: Clarion Books/ Harper Collins (2022)


Ages: 4-7


Nonfiction


Themes:

Chocolate, persistence, science, experimenting, and philanthropy.


Synopsis:

The story of sweet success behind the Hershey's Kiss! The invention of America's quintessential milk chocolate bar is brought to vivid, delicious life in this STEAM picture book biography perfect for fans of Mr. Ferris and His Wheel and Snowflake Bentley.


Hershey's milk chocolate is the quintessential American chocolate bar. But in Milton Hershey's time, chocolate was mostly a special treat for the very wealthy. Milton grew up poor and was no stranger to going hungry. When he got a job washing dishes in an ice cream parlor, he realized how happy sweets made people—and how much he liked making people happy.


Over the course of his career, Hershey failed to make many businesses profitable, yet ultimately cracked the formula on milk chocolate. Here was a chocolate that was delicious, didn't spoil, and could be sold at an affordable price in communities across America and the world. And here was a business that could provide good lives in a welcoming town and an education for those who couldn't afford it.


Perfect for the chocolate lover, inventor, and science-experiment-obsessed childhood reader, this biography shows that perseverance and persistence can lead to sweet success.


Opening Lines:

At the corner of Chocolate Avenue and Cocoa Avenue lives a story.

A story that began more than one hundred and fifty years ago.

A story about chocolate, though Milton Hershey probably never

tasted chocolate as a child


What I LOVED about this book:

This intriguing opening is combined with a stunning illustration zoomed in on an old-fashioned street lamp bearing the signs for Chocolate Avenue and Coca Avenue with a bucolic town and model-T cars in the background.


We meet Milton Hershey and poignantly discover his situation on the next spread. The hungry yearning of a young boy and the indulgent ignorance of the wealthy family stand in sharp contrast. It's a memory and driving force that never leaves him throughout his life. And Tziporah Cohen does a fantastic job weaving it through the biography.

Text © Tziporah Cohen, 2022. Image © Steven Salerno, 2022.


Chocolate was an expensive treat for the rich in the 1860s.

Milton’s family was very poor. His belly was often empty and

his feet were often bare.


At fourteen, Milton worked at Royer’s Ice Cream Parlor and Garden where he discovered how much he enjoyed the way candy made others (and himself) happy. After learning to make candy for five years, he decided to start his own candy company first in Philadelphia, then Chicago, and finally in New York, before he miserably headed home and started perfecting caramels.

Text © Tziporah Cohen, 2022. Image © Steven Salerno, 2022.


I love the way that Tziporah Cohen and Steven Salerno vividly portray not only the ultimate "rags to riches" fairytale of Milton Hershey, but all the many struggles, failures, trials, and frustrations that Milton encountered along the way. Milton's dejection and the bright, bold stamps of failure preceded his numerous determined experiments with creating the perfect caramels; ones that satisfied "every taste and every budget." A nice nod back to that longing, barefoot little boy. When he incorporated a little milk, he achieved his first big success. Eventually, his pushcart grew into a factory and Lancaster Caramel Co. grew to ship caramels around the world.


Seven years later, looking for something new, he stumbled across "chocolate-making machines from Germany" at the Chicago World's Fair. He was hooked. But his attempts to create a milk chocolate that everyone could afford failed again and again and again. Fun sidebars offer lots of little tidbits, like an explanation of the origin and price of sugar in the 1880's and the quick history of chocolate. Steven Salerno's gorgeous period illustrations include horse-drawn wagons and amazing early chocolate making industrial equipment. After seven years and collaboration with scientists and workers from Europe - he made "American's first chocolate bar" and sold it for 5 cents! He'd succeeded in making chocolate for everyone. However, many of his ideas and experiments continued to fail, but he never stopped trying, never stopped dreaming and creating.

Text © Tziporah Cohen, 2022. Image © Steven Salerno, 2022.


Most importantly, Milton never forgot where he came from. See Monday's interview with Tziporah and Steven (here) for the illustration which stunningly brings this point home as Milton ponders poor kids staring at treats and chocolate in a bakery window. The final spreads beautifully detail Milton and his wife's philanthropic efforts for their workers and children.


This is a gorgeous biography and fun history of milk chocolate in America. But it is also a heartfelt and poignant comment on never giving up and remembering to help others. The additional source notes, black and white photographs, bibliography, additional reading, and timeline make this a useful resource for further research on Milton Hershey or chocolate. It's a book sure to make you crave your favorite candy.


Resources:

- make a Kiss-mas tree forest or maybe use them as place name tags for a holiday dinner.


- if you could make your own candy bar or cookie flavor what would it be?


- try a chocolate tasting challenge with your friends. Cut up different bars, set them out without labels, can you tell the different types (dark, milk, white, ...)? For a tougher challenge, can you tell the manufacturer? [Be sure to check for allergies]


- if you're curious about what the factory looks like now, but don't live near Pennsylvania, check out the Virtual Hershey Chocolate World Factory Tour.


If you missed the interview with Tziporah Cohen and Steven Salerno on Monday, find it (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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