Title: My Chocolate Year
Author: Charlotte Herman
Illustrated by: LeUyen Pham
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2008
Genre: Historical Fiction
Recommended to: Kids, ages 8-11
It's 1945, and Dorrie Myers is beginning fifth grade in Miss Fitzgerald's class, which means one very exciting thing to her and her best friend Sunny Shapiro: it's the year of Sweet Semester, a baking and essay contest, and the winner gets their photo in the newspaper! Dorrie desperately wants to win and become famous like her favorite movie star Margaret O' Brien, but she can't bake to save her life! Her cakes fall, her brownies burn, and even successful recipes have something wrong (like accidentally putting laxatives in nut clusters!). Then her cousin Victor comes to stay with the family from war-torn Europe, and Dorrie begins to learn more about her family and background. But can Victor help her win Sweet Semester with his secret recipe?
Herman's story is heartwarming, sweet, and down-to-earth. She excellently gives readers a peek into a close Jewish family's life in the '40s, and each character is unique and special. However, the plot was a little too predictable and cliché for me, and the dialogue was a little too simple for my taste. Overall, I found the book to be a bit young, but can't say I didn't enjoy it. The illustrations were adorable, the 12 recipes scattered throughout were clever and added a little zing to the story, and the cover is awesome (doesn't that cupcake just look soooo yummy?). I have to say, when I first saw this book on the shelf at my local bookstore, I knew I had to read it. But I thought it was a modern story, and at first I was disappointed to see it was historical fiction. But then I started reading and changed my mind: My Chocolate Year is a sweet, appropriate read for younger bookworms who like a quick but well-written novel.