Cocoa Magic is a gentle, nostalgic story that uses chocolate as a metaphor for caring and generosity. Daniel, the nephew of the Cocoa King of 1920s Charlottetown, begins each day by helping his uncle in the family chocolate shop before heading off to school. One day, Daniel notices that a new classmate seems lonely and sad, so to cheer her up, he hides a chocolate in her desk. It works like a charm, and Daniel begins to see that all of his classmates could use the joy that comes with a chocolate surprise. Soon, he’s bringing secret treats for the whole class. But then his uncle has to close the shop for a week, and suddenly Daniel is the one in need of cheering up.
This is a very sweet story – and not because it’s about chocolate! Being able to notice the feelings of others and figure out how to help them feel better with acts of generosity is a key skill for children to learn, and this story uses gift-giving as a way to make those skills concrete. Even though the book is set in a very specific place and time, the message is universal.
The illustrations have a glowing warmth that suits the story’s tone, though some contrast in the moments of sadness Daniel notices could have been reflected in the colour and lighting palette, which remains consistent regardless of the mood. The little details on the historical clothing the children wear are lovingly depicted, and all the textures and watercolour washes create nuanced, beautiful images. And the chocolates look good enough to eat, too!
Cocoa Magic has a timeless feel – it could easily have been written anytime in the hundred years between the time it is set and now – and is sure to resonate with kids and their parents.