Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Book Review (Kids): How Sweet It Is (and Was): The History of Candy, by Ruth Freeman Swain

How Sweet It Is (and Was): The History of Candy, by Ruth Freeman Swain and illustrated by John O' Brien

My Betty's two favorite things in the world are:

1. Candy and
2. Books.

So, when we spotted a book about candy at the library, we gobbled it up. (Bah-dum-bump!)

This is a fun nonfiction book for kids about all things candy, from the origin of the word itself ("from the Arabic word qandi, which came all the way from the Indian Sanskrit word khanda, meaning a piece of sugar"), to the first sweet concoctions, to various delicacies throughout the world.

Betty was genuinely appalled to learn that at one time, only rich people could afford sugar, and that chocolate was kept a secret in Spain for almost a hundred years. ("I would not have wanted to live when that happened!" she declared.)

Boo was intrigued reading about Queen Elizabeth's passion for keeping "kissing comfits" (small perfumed candies for sweetening people's breath) and consuming so many comfits that her teeth turned black. We were all amused to discover that fudge ("a slang word for mistake") was likely the result of a batch of caramels being "fudged, or ruined."

There is a section of the book that does clarify that we don't really need sugary foods and that fruits are just as sweet (not to mention better for us), and that if you do eat sweets, it's important to take care of your teeth. ("So they don't turn black like Queen Elizabeth's," Boo volunteered, helpfully.)

I found it interesting (and slightly horrifying) to note that in the year 2000, Americans ate 7.1 billion pounds of candy, with an average of 25 pounds consumed per person. Chocolate is the biggest offender; Americans eat an average of 12 pounds of chocolate per person every year. These are eight year old statistics, and since the world has gotten a tad more stressful since 2000, my money would be on the notion that those pounds have been piling on in the years since.

Perhaps not surprisingly, more candy is bought for Halloween than any other holiday - two billion dollars worth in 2000. (How Sweet It Is (and Was) was published in 2003.)

(And speaking of Halloween, it was my intent to have this post up in time for All Hallow's Eve itself, but ... well, I forgot. Assuming that there's still some Halloween candy left, this might still be appropriate. Then again, candy is appropriate anytime.)

On a personal note, I got a kick out of the dedication. Ruth Freeman Swain dedicates her book to "my good friends, of all ages, at Central Nursery School, Wayne, Pennsylvania." I know Wayne well and have fond memories of my first apartment in that Main Line town, so that was a fun little snippet of the book for me.

Betty and Boo seemed to like this nonfiction childrens book, and even though How Sweet It Is (and Was) does sing the praises of candy, it didn't seem to influence my kids to want more.

As if that is even possible.

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