BOOKS

Cover of Maggie and the Chocolate War
Maggie and the Chocolate War
Michelle Mulder. Second Story Press, 2007. 93 pages, $14.95.
****
Reviewed by Emily Hastings-Speck

“We have to do something,” says Maggie. World War II is over, but since rationing ended, food prices keep going up. When the price of a chocolate bar suddenly jumps from five cents to eight cents, Maggie and her friends get a crash course in community action and organizing as they join kids across Canada on a strike against the price hike.

Maggie and the Chocolate War is an engaging story that skilfully blends a fictional story with historical facts. Maggie has been doing deliveries for her shopkeeper father to earn money, determined to buy her friend Jo a chocolate bar for her birthday. Things get complicated when chocolate prices rise unexpectedly, and Maggie is torn between her loyalty to her father, her relationships with her friends, her desire to create social change and her secret plan to be the Best Friend Ever for Jo’s birthday. The author creates an appealing blend of Maggie’s personal story with the historical context and includes original sources. The story between Maggie and Jo resolves nicely, but the story of the Chocolate War itself is left unclear unless you read the historical note at the end. The reader might feel as though there should be another chapter to the story.

Maggie and the Chocolate War provides rich opportunities for cross-curricular learning and discussions – links to history and social studies, social movements and activism and feminism (there are some great subtle parts of the story involving Maggie’s mother). There could be links made to math, in terms of prices and cost of living. The book includes excellent examples of the use of primary sources as material. News clippings and photographs are embedded throughout the text, and the chapters are written in short chunks appropriate for discussion. The text is accessible and appropriate for grades three and up, but will appeal most to junior students in grades four to six.

Emily Hastings-Speck is a member of the Peel Teacher Local.

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