Benjamin loves chocolate. He also knows a lot about it. But one person knows more – his grandfather Marco, otherwise known as the Chocolate King.
Benjamin’s family arrive in France at the beginning of the 17th century, having escaped the Spanish Inquisition. They have nothing but the clothes on their backs and as many cocoa beans as they can carry.
Back in Spain, Benjamin’s grandfather Marco was El Rey de Chocolate, famed for his delicious hot chocolate drink, a recipe he claims he learned from an intrepid Spanish explorer. But now, if the family are to make a living, they must persuade the people of France to fall in love with Marco’s strange mud-coloured concoction. Benjamin is desperate to help, dreaming that he might grow up to wear the Chocolate King crown.
Then, one day, Benjamin causes chaos in the kitchen. Covered head-to-toe in chocolate, he stumbles into the street and straight into the path of the real King – the King of France. Finally, the family get the breakthrough they need, and all of Benjamin’s dreams start to come true.
Read this one with kiddo (7) and they really enjoyed it. They rated it 4 stars (most likely because to get 5 stars from them it would need to be about baseball). The story is sweet (it is about chocolate after all) and simplifies some heavy historical topics to give a basic understanding of how Benjamin’s grandfather became “The Chocolate King” in France after being forced to leave Spain for being Jewish.
The events that unfold are funny if a bit implausible, and Benjamin is endearing. The king is portrayed in a rather comical fashion which fits with the time period. Overall an enjoyable read that teaches a bit about history and includes information on the history of and process of making chocolate.
The illustrations are sweet and funny and suit the story and the characters. I really like the colors that are used – they give it an old-fashioned feel that makes it seem more authentically historical.
The story is short and rather simple – perhaps simplified a bit too far in an effort to make kids understand it. While my kiddo enjoyed listening to it they don’t seem inclined to read it again. It could have included more historical detail and a bit deeper story to invite rereading and further exploration of the time period.
*Thanks to NetGalley and Pen&Sword, Green Bean Books for providing an e-arc for review.