Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World's Most Favorite Treat

256p. bibliog. chron. further reading. photos. reprods. websites. Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544175662.
RedReviewStarGr 6–8—This fascinating book presents a deep, multifaceted glimpse at a delectable dessert: chocolate. Engaging—even witty in places—and enlightening, it gives a history of the sweet treat, speculating about its little-known origins 1,500 years ago in the Upper Amazon Basin of South America, exploring its role in the European conquest of Central and South America, and discussing the dark side of chocolate: the use of slave labor to grow and harvest it. Frydenborg examines the development of chocolate as an industry in Europe and America in the 18th and 19th centuries. The book also goes into the science of the confection, such as why it's considered so tasty and its potential health benefits. Along the way, Frydenborg seamlessly weaves in information about relevant historical figures, including confectioner Milton S. Hershey; Russian scientist Nikolai Vavilov, who traced the origins of the cacao tree; and explorers such as Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizzaro. Photographs enhance readers' understanding, though the recipes and sidebars are occasionally distracting. Robert Burleigh's celebrated Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest (Abrams, 2002), aimed at elementary school students, is better designed, but those looking for a more detailed history for an older audience would do well to consult Frydenborg's work.
VERDICT An excellent and highly original addition to history collections.

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