This book is alive and kicking after more than sixty years, so it must be popular with kids… but to an adult reader, The Chocolate Touch is not going to come across as subtle. In any way whatsoever.
John Midas (yes, like King Midas who turned everything to gold) eats too much candy. And it’s not just that, he’s selfish about it, too. So he gets a magical come-uppance by means of a mysterious coin that he spends in a mysterious store on a mysterious box of chocolates containing only one chocolate that makes everything he puts to his mouth turn to chocolate—including, as you might guess from this spectacularly badly chosen cover illustration, his mother. Then he repents and all is well again. (Didactic, much?)
The bright spot is this line spoken by John’s teacher Miss Plimsole in English class: “The more words you know, the more exactly you can think.” True dat.
But then the vocabulary words for the day are ‘avarice’, ‘indigestion’, ‘acidity’, ‘unhealthiness’, ‘moderation’, and ‘digestibility’. Hm. Do you think these words might be related to the book’s message at all? Even the character notices! “[I]t seemed to John as though they all had a special bearing on his present uncomfortable condition.” Sigh.
Then there are the names: John Midas, Doctor Cranium, Mrs. Quaver (the music teacher), Susan Buttercup (a classmate and friend with yellow curls). I am rolling my eyes.
Still, I think the book does a great job of conveying how the boy feels about chocolate, how he feels when the magic starts to happen, how he feels when it starts to go bad, how he feels as it gets worse, and how he feels when the crisis is over.
When and Why I Read It
Bought it at a thrift store in Colorado because I remembered reading it or at least seeing it when I was younger.
Genre: illustrated children’s chapter book
Date started / date finished: 03-Jul-16 to 03-Jul-16
Length: 87 pages
ISBN: 0553152874 (1984 paperback)
Originally published in: 1952
Amazon link: The Chocolate Touch
I like Edward Eager’s 1950s ordinary-kids-with-magic-gone-wrong stories better. And the 1900s ones by Edith Nesbit, too, for that matter. And maybe I should revisit the (out-of-print) books of Scott Corbett, which I remember from the public library in my neighbourhood, where they sat next to Ruth Chew’s endearing matter-of-fact magic books.
And for chapter books about kids in school, I prefer Andrew Clements of Frindle fame.
Hey, look! This year the Edward Eager books are being reissued! This pleases me for two reasons: it means the books are still selling, and it means they’ve redone the cover illustrations. (I didn’t like the Quentin Blake ones, because they make me think of Roald Dahl, whom I don’t like.)