No Monkeys, No Chocolate book cover image

No Monkeys, No Chocolate

  • 1695

By: Melissa Stewart & Allen Young / Illustrated by: Nicole Wong

Making chocolate is monkey business.

Everyone loves chocolate, right? But how many people actually know where chocolate comes from? How it’s made? Or that monkeys do their part to help this delicious sweet exist?

This delectable dessert comes from cocoa beans, which grow on cocoa trees in tropical rain forests. But those trees couldn’t survive without the help of a menagerie of rain forest critters: a pollen-sucking midge, an aphid-munching anole lizard, brain-eating coffin fly maggots—they all pitch in to help the cocoa tree survive. A secondary layer of text delves deeper into statements such as "Cocoa flowers can’t bloom without cocoa leaves . . . and maggots," explaining the interdependence of the plants and animals in the tropical rain forests. Two wise-cracking bookworms appear on every page, adding humor and further commentary, making this book accessible to readers of different ages and reading levels.

Back matter includes information about cocoa farming and rain forest preservation, as well as an author’s note.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Melissa Stewart, author

Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than one hundred fifty science books for children, including No Monkeys, No Chocolate; Under the Snow Tree (Peachtree); and the A Place for series (Peachtree). She holds degrees in biology and science journalism. She lives in Acton, Massachusetts.

Read more about Melissa.

Allen Young

Allen Young is the world’s leading expert on cocoa tree pollination and growth. He is the author of The Chocolate Tree: A Natural History of Cacao. Allen lives in Fox Point, Wisconsin.

Nicole Wong, illustrator

Nicole Wong is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design. Her illustrations have been featured in the children's book Why Are You So Sad? and in several magazines and educational books. Nicole, her husband, Dan, and their dog Sable, live in Massachusetts, where they enjoy eating licorice, peanut butter cups, and jelly beans.

Read more about Nicole.

Awards & Honors:

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • An NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
  • Kirkus Reviews' Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens
  • Reading is Fundamental's STEAM Multicultural Booklist
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Arizona Grand Canyon Reader Award 

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

This clever circular tale with a curious title opens with a common scene: a party including chocolaty treats. The authors explain, "[Y]ou can't make chocolate without... / ...cocoa beans." With the turn of the page, readers find themselves in the rain forest microhabitat of the cocoa tree.

In each spread, the authors take children backward through the life cycle of the tree: pods, flowers, leaves, stems, roots and back to beans. The interdependence of plants and animals is introduced in the process: Midges carry pollen from one flower to another; aphids destroying tender stems are kept in check by an anole. Graceful ink-and-watercolor illustrations range from an expansive view of the rain forest to a close-up of aphids. Explanations are delivered in a simple manner that avoids terms such as pollination or germination. "Bookworm" commentators in the corner of each spread either reinforce the concept—"No lizards, no chocolate"—or echo youngsters' impatience: "I thought this book was supposed to be about monkeys." Indeed, the book closes with a monkey sitting in a branch with an open pod, eating the pulp and spitting out the beans, which fall to the ground and take root: no monkeys, no chocolate. Backmatter helps young naturalists understand why conservation and careful stewardship is important.

Children—and more than a few adults—will find this educational you-are-there journey to the rain forest fascinating.

NSTA Recommends

This delightful, easy to read, and beautifully illustrated children's book describes the production of chocolate from the cocoa tree. It explains the intricate way that the cocoa tree depends on many other organisms (including monkeys!) to produce the cocoa beans that are ultimately used to make chocolate.

The story starts with the fertilization of the cocoa flower by midges, and continues with an explanation of how leaf-cutting ants are controlled by coffin flies, how aphids that bore into the cocoa plant's stem are controlled by lizards, and how the actions of soil fungi release nutrients to nourish the plant. The significance of the monkeys is revealed at the conclusion of the story by explaining that the role of monkeys is to break open the pods and scatter the seeds.

The end of the book contains a list of things people can do to help preserve rain forests. Although this section is factually accurate, it would have been better if the help points were more specifically related to the specific topic of the book--chocolate! Overall, the story is very well told and the 'sidebar' comments by a pair of wise-cracking bookworms on every page keep the story lively and interesting, as well as reinforcing the main points of the story. This book would be an excellent way to introduce young students to the concepts of interdependence among organisms in an ecosystem. So with no monkeys there might be no chocolate!

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Rain-forest monkeys like to nosh on a nice cocoa pod, but it’s the goo surrounding the cocoa beans that appeals, not the beans themselves, which they spit onto the ground. Happily for chocolate lovers, discarded beans seed a new cocoa tree, thus keeping cocoa-loving primates of all ilk satisfied. Here Stewart traces the journey to chocolate treats in reverse, starting with cocoa beans, which develop in pods, which "can’t form without flowers," which can’t bloom without leaves, etc., all the way back to the monkeys that scatter the beans that produce the trees. It’s initially an elegant framework, with each step explained in a couple of short, accessible paragraphs. However, the narrative gets tangled several times when insects come into play and explanations lengthen to fully explain the process. By the time the role of midges in flower pollenization is covered, or the role of coffin flies in controlling leaf cutter ant predation, the momentum is broken. Wong’s watercolor illustrations, much in the style of Let’s Read and Find Out Science series books, offer detailed close-ups of important stages of cocoa development and of the critters that various aid or impede its growth. The cartoon bookworms kibitzing in each recto corner supply additional levity but are also somewhat distracting. This title covers the same ground as Adrian Forsyth’s How Monkeys Make Chocolate; however, with its shorter page count and lower reading level, No Monkeys could be a good alternate for use in many classrooms.

School Library Journal

Chocolate and monkeys may seem worlds apart, but as Stewart and Young point out in their clear text, it takes monkeys (and other critters) to scatter the cocoa beans (seeds) throughout the rain forest. Munching on the soft, tasty pulp lining the pods as they travel through the trees, the monkeys discard the not-so-tasty beans, scattering them indiscriminately. In a format slightly reminiscent of the old "This Is the House That Jack Built," the authors present a simply written look at a complex ecosystem encompassed by one tree's life cycle. Flowers, midges, leaves, maggots, ants, lizards, roots, and more all form parts of the process of producing the cocoa beans so essential to our candy bars and brownies. In a lighter note, two "bookworms" provide an amusing counterpoint in a tiny triangle at the bottom of the page. Wong's realistic watercolors stretch across the pages in warm cocoa browns and soft greens, with occasional splashes of rosy pink. Appended is a page pleading for more rain-forest preservation (not much mention of cocoa "plantations"), another with lists of things to do to make one's life "greener," and still another with an author's note on the origin and development of the book. For slightly older readers, a more traditional look may be found in Adrianna Morganelli's staid The Biography of Chocolate (Crabtree, 2006), but Stewart's book has more visual appeal (and then there are those monkeys...).

The Horn Book

Starting with the finished products (cake! candy bars! hot fudge sundaes!) and working backward, Stewart and Young explain where chocolate comes from. The expository text begins with cocoa beans, which are dried and processed by humans, then the story moves back to cocoa pods, which come from cocoa flowers pollinated by midges, going all the way back to monkeys dropping cocoa seeds on the rainforest floor and thus allowing new trees to grow. In this way, readers deduce the interdependence of life in the rainforest rather than relying on didactic telling from the authors. Full-bleed ink and watercolor illustrations zoom in on each step along the way, lending visual support to help identify potentially unfamiliar plants and animals. In a corner of each spread, two little worms provide a running commentary, with knee-slappers and puns galore. A concluding note describes the fragility of the environment, and an author's note from Stewart outlines her writing process. A "What You Can Do to Help" page lists general suggestions for conservation.


ISBN: 978-1-58089-287-2

ISBN: 978-1-58089-288-9

E-book PDF
ISBN: 978-1-60734-609-8
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 5-8
Page count: 32
8 1/2 x 11

If you like this book, you’ll enjoy these:
At Home in the Rainforest
What's for Dinner?
Trout Are Made of Trees
Feathers: Not Just for Flying