CM January 5, 
1996. Vol. 2, Number 12

image How Monkeys Make Chocolate:
Foods and Medicines from the Rainforests.

Adrian Forsyth.
Toronto: Owl Books, 1995. 48pp, paper, $9.95.
ISBN 1-895688-32-9.

Subject Headings:
Plants, Useful-Juvenile literature.
Rain forest plants-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4 - 8 / Ages 9 - 13.
Review by Jennifer La Chapelle


We still know very little about thousands of kinds of rainforest plants and animals. We don't even have names for many of them. But what goes on between all the plants and animals is what makes the forest work -- flowers are pollinated. seeds are spread, animals are fed. Little by little, we are learning to see and to use these connections. Without the relationship between monkeys and cacao. we would not have chocolate And living forests are full of riches yet to be found.

macaw The destruction of rainforests throughout the globe. and the resultant loss of potential medicines and foods is not lost on young adults. Circulation records at public and school libraries indicate that elementary and high school students' interest in the topic is not simply curriculum-driven. Adrian Forsyth's How Monkeys Make Chocolate successfully explores four instances of the interaction of plants, animals, and people in rainforests.

The title, cover, and visual layout of this work will draw the reader into the text, which reveals Forsyth's award-winning writing style. A biologist of international repute, Forsyth interjects his own experiences of rainforest plant/animal/human interaction, removing the book from the realm of formulaic textbook materials. The photography and layout are slick, as one would expect from an Owl Books publication.


Yet the visual appeal seems geared towards a younger audience than the text, which is best suited to grades six to eight. Many of the terms Forsyth uses, such as "chemical beacon" are not explained. While senior elementary students might be expected to grasp their meaning even when the terms have not been dealt with in class, junior- and middle-grade readers drawn in by the photography and layout may find the text frustrating. Had sidebars been used to break out some of this information, the book would have been suitable to a wider age group. A useful index is provided, but considering the topic and some of the scientific terms used, a bibliography would have been an attractive additional feature.

While How Monkeys Make Chocolate will be gobbled up by elementary students interested in this current topic, it misses an opportunity to attract a greater following through a more useful layout. It is also very selective in its coverage. and so will serve best as an appetiser, leaving the reader or buyer to search elsewhere for a main course on this subject.

Recommended with reservations.

Jennifer La Chapelle is the head of a multi-branch public library in Ontario. In addition to an M.L.S., she holds degrees in Political Science, English, and History.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to

Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

Go back to CM Welcome page
Go back to Table of Contents for this Issue