Gari was standing on a little box at the doorway of the shop, talking. That was why he had a crowd. What was he sating? Jelly stopped and listened, curious.
‘I look around this town, and do you know what I see?’ the shop owner cried.
There was a pause.
I see people seeking the truth of chocolate,’ Gari said, ignoring this. ‘Real chocolate! Not Blocka Chocas, or Wacko Chocs, or Whopper bars –
People began muttering and shuffling away.
‘And, as a true descendant of the Ancient Easter Egg Islanders, the Chocolati tribe -’ Gari went on.
Now this caught everyone’s attention.
(The Great Chocoplot by Chris Callaghan. P62 – 63.)
In five days, chocolate will end. At first Jelly thinks it is another silly article on The Seven Show. Something about an ancient prophecy on a place called Easter Egg Island. Jelly’s got more important things to worry about, like whether her Dad will find another job, and where the next meal is coming from. In fact, Jelly does quite a lot of worrying. So many things in life could go wrong.
She decides to prove the Chocopocalypse is a myth, and film the results of her experiment for her class science project.
When the first part of the chocolate prophecy comes true, and chocolate rains down on Easter Egg Island, the world descends into chaos. The shops sell-out, and people turn to rioting and theft to get their hands on chocolate.
As if that wasn’t enough to worry about, Dodgy Dave wants Jelly’s Dad to get involved with a probably-not-legal job, and upmarket chocolatier Garibaldi Chocolati takes offense when Jelly says she would rather buy a Blocka-Chocka. Is the Chocopocalypse going to happen, or is somebody playing tricks?
A laugh-a-minute Middle Grade read which was the perfect treat for a Saturday morning readathon.
The theme of anxiety is brilliantly handled. A light, bubbly approach to mental-wellbeing is well needed when children are experiencing mental health issues at higher rates than ever. I love Jelly (great name for someone who often feels a bit wobbly), and how she adjusts the way she views things to allow herself to appreciate the moment.
Publishing has started to realise that not every childhood is set in middle-class suburbia, and it is great to see warm-hearted books like The Great Chocoplot which captures not only the concerns of working class children, but also their lives. There is also some commentary on social inequality, which, although handled with a sense of humour, is a hugely important comment on the world we live in. (The Prime Minister’s nickname? Toffee-Nosed Posh Boy. Spot on.)
Callaghan underpins his comedy with a recognisable world. As well as a healthy dose of toilet humour, his world his funny because we relate to it. As an adult reader, I was in stitches at his sending up of The One Show. ‘I wasn’t watching it!’ objects one character, ‘it was just on in the background? You know?’ Oh, I know. Like everybody I have spoken to about the BBC’s inane offering, I don’t ‘watch’ The One Show, but often mysteriously know what has been featured. The Seven Show captures the inanity of the programme to perfection. Callaghan captures the ridiculousness in the mundane, from tweeting silly hashtags, to countdown apps and entering postcodes on the sat-nav for local journeys.
There is lots of great word play. Jelly lives in Chompton on de-Lyte, for instance, and Garibaldi Chocolati? We know he takes his chocolate seriously, and we know he’s going to be send up for it. Genius. There are also lots of foodie names, from Jelly to Mrs Bunstable to Waffle Way.
** amendment: This is a standalone novel. Initially, I fibbed, and promised a sequel. No pressure to the author, but I’ll read anything else set in the same world. 😉