The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
Jul 1, 2015
We had this book checked out from the library for weeks before we finally got around to reading it. I blame it on Poppy, whose back cover summary pulled in both Aaron and Max, and then we weren't ready to leave her so we moved on to Poppy and Rye. By that time, I considered just handing off The Chocolate Touch to Aaron to read on his own. It looked short and very juvenile, and I was pretty sure it was going to be one of those books I endured for the sake of my kids.
But not at all.
I don't know that a book has ever teased so many waves of uncontrollable laughter out of my kids. I wouldn't have wanted to miss that for the world.
To say that John Midas has a sugar addiction would be an understatement (he and Buddy the Elf would get along famously). It's become such a problem that Mr. and Mrs. Midas are forced to give him a daily vitamin just so he doesn't shrivel up and die of malnutrition.
Then one day, John happens upon a strange coin. And just a few moments later, he sees a candy shop he doesn't recall ever seeing before. He can't resist the temptation and walks in. The storekeeper is very friendly, and when he sees John's coin, he says, coincidentally, that's the only kind of money the shop accepts and and asks if he would he like to spend it on a box of chocolates. John, being the candy glutton that he is, doesn't stop to think about how strange it is that this shop appeared out of nowhere and that it doesn't accept traditional money. He just buys the box of chocolates and then rushes home to tear into it.
He's incredibly disappointed when he finds just a single chocolate in the middle of the big box, but he gobbles it down anyway. And the next morning, the fun begins.
He brushes his teeth and finds his mouth full of chocolate. Before long, his sister finds him squeezing the whole bottle of toothpaste directly into his mouth [insert uproarious laughter from my kids]. He goes downstairs for breakfast, and his mother has never seen him eat such a balanced meal, but it's only because all the food turns to chocolate as soon as it touches his mouth. But what starts out as some amazing miracle soon begins to make John go crazy. His trumpet and his pencil and other items inconveniently change to chocolate. And John is so thirsty, he would give anything for a cool drink of water. He starts to realize that maybe a never ending supply of chocolate isn't such a good idea after all.
My kids' very favorite scene happened when John is walking to school. He's contemplating this new gift of his and begins absentmindedly chewing on the thumb of his glove. Of course, it instantly turns to chocolate. He's still at the beginning of the day, so he happily chews away on more of his glove when he runs into Spider Wilson, a fellow classmate and something of a bully. Spider begins to make fun of John until John demonstrates what happens when he takes a bite of his glove. Then of course, Spider wants to try it for himself. He snatches away one of John's gloves and takes a big bite of it. You can already guess what happens, and so could my boys. The anticipation of Spider's mistake and then watching him spit it out in absolute disgust made them collapse into little heaps of laughter.
My kids had never heard the Greek myth, King Midas and the Golden Touch, and so they didn't appreciate the cleverness of this retelling, but I did. I kept wondering who was going to be the unfortunate person who gets turned into chocolate (like King Midas' daughter). You'll have to check out the book for yourself to find out.
In many ways, this seemed like an expanded version of one of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's magic cures: a child has an unhealthy habit, the magic is in a little, unassuming package that the child happily scarfs down, and the result is the bad habit to the extreme. It doesn't take the child long to see the wisdom in reigning in his desires and doing all things in moderation.
If you're on the fence about reading aloud to your kids, this would be a perfect book to try it out with. It's short, it has some great illustrations, and it's extremely funny. I dare you not to enjoy it.