Cocoa Magic Reviews

School Library Journal

“Setting the tale in the 1920s, the soft, warm-toned illustrations on a background closer to parchment than white give this an old-fashioned, historical feel, as does the classroom furniture, the students’ clothes, and the uncle’s mustache….Delicious endpapers feature 24 unique, beautifully decorated candies….The SEL element is strongly laid out, with a nice twist at the end, for a well-intentioned but likely additional purchase.”

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Kirkus Reviews

“It was magic when Daniel made his first batch of chocolates at age 4, with his Great-Uncle Lewis—“the Cocoa King of Charlottetown”—keeping his hands steady as Daniel poured the chocolate into the mold. Four years later, the duo’s chocolate-making has become routine as they melt, pour, scrape, and mold together for “one precious hour every morning” before Daniel goes to school. A new classmate’s loneliness prompts Daniel to hide a beautifully wrapped chocolate caramel in her desk to cheer her up.

When Great-Uncle Lewis goes off to a chocolatiers’ conference for five days, Daniel frets about the “cocoa magic” fading. His classmates surprise him with their own act of kindness. Drawing inspiration from her background as a clinical social worker, Bradley crafts a story laced with empathy and kindness. Grimard’s soft, mixed-media illustrations evoke a sense of coziness as well as the historical Charlottetown setting…Endpapers mimic a box of chocolates—a delicious touch…Sweet as sugar.”

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“This sweet story follows a young boy, who, through a small act of kindness, leads a movement at his school….Grimard’s soft, muted artwork captures the old-fashioned feel of the story and its 1920s time period, but its message of giving is timeless. Bradley brings her experience as a social worker to this tale of empathy and kindness.”

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Quill & Quire

“Cocoa Magic is a gentle, nostalgic story that uses chocolate as a metaphor for caring and generosity….This is a very sweet story – and not because it’s about chocolate! Being able to notice the feelings of others and figure out how to help them feel better with acts of generosity is a key skill for children to learn, and this story uses gift-giving as a way to make those skills concrete. Even though the book is set in a very specific place and time, the message is universal.

The illustrations have a glowing warmth that suits the story’s tone….And the chocolates look good enough to eat, too! Cocoa Magic has a timeless feel – it could easily have been written anytime in the hundred years between the time it is set and now – and is sure to resonate with kids and their parents.”

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Youth Services Book Review

“The illustrations (two-page spreads, with no borders), created in watercolor, gouache, oil, colored pencil and digital media, create a world of the 1920s evoking a time gone by….A nice readaloud to preschool, kindergarten and first graders depicting the kindness it is possible to create with such little effort.”

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Children’s Literature

As a clinical social worker, the author has noticed that empathy can be cultivated through the power of a seemingly small act of kindness. Soft illustrations accompany the story well, and the font is clear and legible for children. While some children’s books about big topics like empathy miss the mark of a child-friendly vocabulary, this book is well-pitched to reach its intended audience and spark big themes. This could even serve as a good holiday read for young children who might struggle with the joy of gift-giving over merely gift-receiving….Reviewer Rating: 4”

CM Magazine

“Grimard particularly shines with the drawings of the sweets which are beautiful and decadent and, even on the page, drool-worthy.

The author, who is a social worker, includes a note…about how empathy can be something we are born with but also something that we can learn, and that empathy can be manifested as kindness….it’s a wholesome story with beautiful illustrations and a lesson that everyone can learn from.”

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Open Book 

“Sandra Bradley’s Cocoa Magic (Pajama Press, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard) is coming out at just the right time: combining a story of kindness and generosity with a fragrant chocolate shop as its homey backdrop makes it hard to picture a more perfect holiday read….Atmospheric and nostalgic in its landscape of crisp winter mornings and the cozy chocolate shop, Cocoa Magic is also grounded in authentic, clear-eyed empathy, using everyone’s favourite indulgence to muse intelligently on how we can witness, help, and support one another – a conversation that makes sense and is enhanced by Bradley’s background as a clinic social worker.”

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Edible Inland Northwest

“This charming picture book is…beautifully illustrated, and manages to be both about chocolate and empathy. Recommended for ages 4-7.”

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The International Educator

“Cocoa Magic by Sandra Bradley, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, is an old fashioned story of kindness and empathy….A story about doing little things for others to build empathy and compassion, with the most delicious looking end pages I’ve ever seen!”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“There is much kindness in giving gifts in secret, in not expecting thanks or acknowledgement. It’s giving for the sake of giving and not for reciprocity or reward. With the holiday season upon us, Sandra Bradley‘s book of Cocoa Magic, deliciously illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, reminds us of the goodness of giving….What a wonderful story of empathy!…Sandra Bradley, a clinical social worker and therapist, makes the story of Cocoa Magic one of kindness without expectation of reciprocity. She shows the positive nature of giving both on the recipient and the giver….Gabrielle Grimard‘s illustrations, created with watercolour, gouache, coloured pencil and digital media, are filled with the sweetness of love, kindness, generosity and confections….There may be magic in the cocoa and the sugar but most of it comes from the empathy demonstrated through the gift giving. Perhaps at this time of year, that’s the important message to cherish from Cocoa Magic.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“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….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.”

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Book Time

“What a beautiful book. That was my first thought when I received a copy of Cocoa Magic by Sandra Bradley and Gabrielle Grimard. My second thought was you can never go wrong with a book that features chocolate. The fact that chocolate is used as a way to bring a bit of magic and joy into people’s lives makes the book even better….The illustrations are beautiful, as is the story. In her author’s note, Bradley, a clinical social worker, she said her book is a story “about empathy and one child’s ability to turn his understanding of another’s feelings into a small act of kindness.” Bradley talks about empathy and how it can be taught.”

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Luminous Libro 

“5 out of 5 stars…What an adorable book! I love how compassionate and generous Daniel is, and how he inspires others to be kind as well. He really takes the time to notice other people’s feelings and does what he can to help. The illustrations are mouth-wateringly beautiful!…I love the pretty art style and all the bright colors.”

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Charlotte Offsay (Instagram)

“Oh my goodness I love this story. This is the book everyone needs this holiday season (or all year round really)….A heart-squeezing story of the power of kindness and a reminder that the smallest gestures can often be the most meaningful.”

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Growing Book by Book (Instagram)

“I’m very grateful to have a chocolate book on my shelf to use for the holidays or really any time of the year because this book has a universal everyday message that can be enjoyed year-round….Recommended for ages 4 and up.

P.S. Don’t miss the endpapers of this book!

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Homeschoolingabhi (Instagram)

“If only I could pick a chocolate out of the book to eat, I would. What a sweet book to read this holiday season that teaches kids to be kind and thoughtful and to think about others. Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot to experience joy or bring happiness to others.”

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Olivia the Librarian (Instagram) 

“A story as sweet as candy….Bradley, a clinical social worker, imbues the story with thoughtfulness and the spirit of giving in a way sure to prompt reflection and discussion amongst readers. Grimard’s illustrations lend a timeless atmosphere to the tale, ideal for sharing in group or one-on-one settings. A concluding author’s note reviews the importance of empathy….A warm and tender treat.”

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