cover image HOW SWEET IT IS (AND WAS): The History of Candy

HOW SWEET IT IS (AND WAS): The History of Candy

Ruth Freeman Swain, , illus. by John O'Brien. . Holiday, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1712-4

Swain's (Hairdo! ) anecdotal, accessible examination of candy serves up tempting nuggets but coats its appealing topic in occasionally artificial trappings. Its protracted introductory passages, for example, contain such filler as "Store shelves are filled with bright, shiny packages of candy in mouthwatering flavors and crazy, new shapes. Candy companies work hard to get you to buy their brand of candy." The historical discussion includes more newsworthy items: traders and knights returning from the Crusades brought sugar to Europe in the Middle Ages; when Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés demanded to see the Aztecs' treasure, he was given not gold but chocolate, which he brought back to his homeland. The prose, however, can be awkward: "India is where sugarcane was growing when people there first learned how to take the sweet juice from the tall canes"; "Maple sugaring has been a happy time for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years for people living in the northeastern United States." Luckily, O'Brien's (Red, White, Blue, and Uncle Who? ) characteristically quirky illustrations are consistently delectable, presenting such droll images as a woman pushing a Baby Ruth bar in a pram and a startled Goldilocks lying in bed as three Gummi Bears stand in the doorway. A timeline and three recipes (for sugar paste, fudge and taffy) are included. Ages 6-9. (Oct.)