Reviewed by Molly Martin
The Chocolate League:
no park, no spark
by Rah & Jahi Humphrey
Illustrator: Fanny Liem
Paperback: 108 pages
June 21, 2013, ISBN-13: 978-1490486864, $6.99 paperback
The Chocolate League: no park no spark is a fun book for the upper primary and middle grade students. The book opens with Derrick and his little brother Roster ready for a fun filled school vacation. The local park is the location where everything worth doing takes place. Derrick, Roster and Derrick’s buddy Jellybean Jason hurried to arrive at the park early before other kids were there so that they could play on the playground equipment as much as they wanted.
The gate was locked, a sign reading condemned was fixed to the fence and little Roster demanded to know why he couldn’t go play. Derrick and Jason can read and they understand their plans for a fun summer have just made a radical change.
While I enjoyed reading the book sent for review, I wondered how my resident reviewers, Osage County First Grade students, living in rural Oklahoma would identify with a group of inner city, Detroit, children.
As do many of my students, Derrick and Roster live with Mom, and there isn’t much money available for necessities much less extras. Dad lives somewhere else and the boys don’t often get to visit with him. JellyBean always seems to have lots of snacks; his mom and dad live together, and both have jobs. JellyBean always has the most to spend at the candy store where he buys lots of jellybeans and often shares with Derrick and Roster.
Because the book is written as a chapter book, I read a chapter a day introducing the main characters, candy store: the center of all things important for daily living, as well as Peaches and her friend Deja, assorted parents and others in the neighborhood.
Derrick tells the story of the summer that was fun and happy and filled with good times despite the closure of the park where many happy memories have been made.
During my daily reading, Osage County First Grade followed the adventures of The Chocolate League as they found fun summer things to do despite the closure of their park. Water balloon fights, and jump rope, and running games with chase and tag, pranks and dares, and visits to the candy store, parents sitting on the front stoop, hurrying home as dusk is falling fill pages illustrated with bright and colorful drawings provided by Fanny Liem.
My resident reviewers began taking the book home to read with family as soon as I finished reading it to the class.
I find work to be well written. Osage County First Grade is fascinated that two young boys Rah and Jahi Humphrey had a hand in producing the work. I especially like the opportunity for children living in our rural area to gain a peek into what life in a big city may be like. Many of my students often spend most if not all their time in the little town of perhaps 250 residents where there is a city park, no fence, few businesses, and the school. During the oil boom here in this state the town was thriving, it is thriving no longer.
Detroit was also a thriving city not so many years ago. Reading The Chocolate League piqued Osage County First Grade interest, we found Michigan on our map, and then located Detroit, and talked about how we are different, but in many ways similar to the surroundings noted in the book.
I find this work to be a good interest-holding narrative that is fun to read or listen to; as well as The Chocolate League no park, no spark is a dandy addition for the classroom social studies program. My resident reviewers give thumbs up to book and hope to see more sent to Mrs. M for review.
Reviewed by: molly martin
20+ years classroom teacher
20+ years classroom teacher