Friday, October 17, 2008

Maggie and the Chocolate War by Michelle Mulder

Maggie and the Chocolate War is the kind of book I would have read and reread as a kid.

The setting is Victoria, British Columbia (Canada) in 1947, when war rations have been done away with, but the cost of all varieties of foodstuffs are skyrocketing, resulting in most families being worse off than they were with the rations. Maggie, our main character, is trying to earn enough money to buy her friend Jo a chocolate bar for her tenth birthday, but the cost of chocolate bars hikes up to eight cents right before Jo's birthday. Kids are furious, because there's no way they'll be able to afford their favorite treat when the cost nearly doubles overnight. So, inspired by a lesson they learned from their favorite teacher, they decide to protest. They even march on the legislature.

Maggie is a surprisingly complex character who has to consider various points of view; her dad is a shopkeeper selling eight cent candy bars, so the protests could affect their family's income and cause them to have pare down their budget even more. Maggie has to make decisions about how her actions are going to effect those around her, and she has to deal with the myriad emotions that accompany those decisions.

One of my favorite features of the book is that instead of illustrations, the images in the book are copies of real newspaper articles and pictures of the boycotting kids. There's even an ad in which a chocolate manufacturer tries to explain why the cost of candy bars had to go up. Extra kudos to the author (assuming it was the author's decision) for including these copies of primary sources.

I will be holding on to this charming and empowering book for my own kids to read someday, and I'll probably be sending my niece in the States* a copy, too, for when she's able to read on her own. (She's two weeks old.)

Many thanks to Emma at Second Story Press for sending me this book!

*If you're in the States reading this with your kid(s), you might want to have a map of Canada and a map of BC handy for a light geography lesson.


Deena said...

Cool review! Sounds like a wonderful read:-)

Julie H. Ferguson said...

I'm so thrilled to see this. In a minor way, I mentored Michelle and her writing through under and postgrad studies, as well as through to publication.

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Kathy said...

This sounds like a really interesting read. I will see if I can find a copy of it. Great review!

Anonymous said...

Oh, man! A book about chocolate - how could you go wrong? Thanks for the review.