"Soon enough, Sarah sat down. Out of the corner
of his eye, Daniel saw her reach into her desk for
her notebook. Finding the box, she peered inside.
And then, Sarah did something that Daniel had not
seen her do even once the day before: she smiled.
It was ... magic."
Does chocolate spring to mind as the Christmas season gets under way? Why chocolate? It's one of those gifts that seems to make everyone happier.
That premise certainly works in this charming story that takes place in a Prince Edward Island school in the 1920s. Daniel's Great-Uncle Lewis make chocolates in his local candy shop, and is known as the Cocoa King of Charlottetown. Daniel loves to spend time with him. By the time he is 8, Daniel works for one hour every morning before school helping his uncle. Then the two walk to school, a place that Daniel finds cold and lacking welcome.
When a new girl arrives, shy and alone, Daniel considers what he might do to make her feel accepted and happier. He tells Uncle Lewis about Sarah; the two make a plan. Daniel chooses a chocolate from the shop and secretly places it in Sarah's desk. What a change it makes!
Watching Sarah delight in the small treats left for her, Daniel notices that Ben is looking on with sadness. Monday brings two treats. As Daniel carefully watches his classmates, he notices that others would also benefit from a gift left for them. At the end of the month, he and Uncle Lewis deliver one chocolate for every child (and the teacher) in his classroom.
While Uncle Lewis is away at a conference, Daniel finds loneliness a sad companion. Leave it to all the children to surprise him with gifts and thanks for all he has done. The actions in that one classroom begin to be felt in the entire school, making it a warm and friendly place for all. Empathy and consideration within one school classroom - what an impact they have elsewhere else.
Mixed-media illustrations by Ms. Grimard offer young readers a real feel for this time in history while also showing the emotions felt with such wonderful acts of goodness.