Illustrator Elizabeth Zunon has illustrated more than 15 books, three of which have received Children’s Africana Book Awards, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, One Plastic Bag: Isatou Seesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul and this book, Grandpa Cacao, A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family. Grandpa Cacao, the first book Zunon has both authored and illustrated, highlights her Ivorian-American background. She grew up in her father’s home country of Ivory Coast until the age of twelve when the family moved to her mother’s home in upstate New York.
The picture book begins with a young girl, presumably in the U.S., making a chocolate cake with her father. As they blend the ingredients, father tells her about her Ivorian grandfather and his cacao farm. Father notes his role as a 7 year old, working with others in the village gathering and scooping out cacao pods after his schoolwork and chores were done. As he grew older, he helped Grandpa Cacao bag the beans to sell to cacao buyers. The money the family earned bought food, school supplies, uniforms, books and fabric for special occasion clothes. The story ends with a sweet surprise. Grandpa Cacao arrives from Ivory Coast wearing kente cloth and looking very much like the girl and father in the story and the real Elizabeth.
Zunon’s text and illustrations do an excellent job of showcasing this satisfying family story and capturing the time-consuming, labor-intensive process cacao farming entails. She makes it easy to identify Grandpa Cacao as a young man by representing him and the village cacao workers in white, opaque screen-print shapes. Zunon explains that she used the opaque technique to show how Grandpa “exists in the little girl’s imagination as an almost mythical figure.” The tropical backgrounds of the cacao plantation and the contemporary scenes are done in oil paint on watercolor paper with collage elements. Continue reading.
Grandpa Cacao by Elizabeth Zunon
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on May 21, 2019
Genres: Africa, Family
Reading Level: Grade K, Grades 1-2
Review Source: Africa Access
Publisher's Synopsis: This beautifully illustrated story connects past and present as a girl bakes a chocolate cake with her father and learns about her grandfather harvesting cacao beans in West Africa.
Chocolate is the perfect treat, everywhere!
As a little girl and her father bake her birthday cake together, Daddy tells the story of her Grandpa Cacao, a farmer from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. In a land where elephants roam and the air is hot and damp, Grandpa Cacao worked in his village to harvest cacao, the most important ingredient in chocolate. "Chocolate is a gift to you from Grandpa Cacao," Daddy says. "We can only enjoy chocolate treats thanks to farmers like him." Once the cake is baked, it's ready to eat, but this isn't her only birthday present. There's a special surprise waiting at the front door . . .