The Chocolate Touch
|Author||Patrick Skene Catling|
|Illustrator||Mildred Coughlin McNutt|
|Published||1952 by William Morrow|
The Chocolate Touch is a children's book by Patrick Skene Catling, first published in the USA in 1952. John Midas is delighted when, through a magical gift, everything his lips touch turns into chocolate. The story is patterned after the myth of King Midas, whose magic turned everything he touched into gold. The original illustrations were by Mildred Coughlin McNutt, but another edition in the same year, a "newly illustrated" edition, had illustrations by Margot Apple and more pages.
John Midas is a young boy with an intense, but obsessive love of confectionery, especially chocolate. The family doctor warns John that his health is poor, and until further notice, he is to eat only those foods that are conducive to a healthy body, much to the boy's disgruntlement. The doctor's orders are backed by John's folks, who dispose of their son's entire candy stash and have control over his spending money. Angered at having his life micromanaged, John goes for a walk to clear his head.
Whilst on his excursion he sees a coin on the ground, and thinks his good fortune as a way to buy a quick fix of chocolate, only to be dismayed to think the coin must be a novelty, as it is engraved with the image of a fat boy and the letters JM. Even so, John remarks the coin is unique as JM stands for John Midas, and decides to hang on to it. Also on his walk he comes across a candy store he has never seen before. Even more odd is that the store is run by a storekeeper whom John has never met before, but is friendly and refers to John by name and extols his chocolate as the finest ever. The confectioner offers John a box of his chocolates in exchange for the strange coin. That night before going to bed, John decides to have one final chocolate feast, only to be dismayed to find the box contains nothing save for an ordinary chocolate ball, which does not taste overly different from most other types of chocolate.
The next morning, John is amazed to find everything he eats tastes like chocolate. Then, the Chocolate Touch's effects go into full swing, and whatever touches his mouth turns to chocolate. However, he cannot properly hydrate himself this way. He then gets tired of eating chocolate and begins to view foods with nutrients as the tastiest delicacies on earth. He spoils a birthday party when bobbing for apples later in the day. John's dad asks where he got the chocolate, but both are dismayed when the candy store had mysteriously vanished. They go to Dr. Cranium, the family physician, who tries to give John a tonic - John promptly spits out chocolate syrup and a chocolate spoon. Dr. Cranium decides to name the disease "Cranium's disease" and Mrs. Midas cries when she finds out about the disease. In order to comfort her, John tries to kiss his mother, who also turns to chocolate. Horrified, he rushes to the candy store, which has now reappeared, and the chocolate vendor offers him a choice between removing the Chocolate Touch and restoring his mother: John asks the storekeeper to help his mother and the storekeeper forgives him. Everything returns to normal, including Mrs. Midas, and the candy store disappears once and for all.
The Chocolate Touch covers roughly the same narrative as the myth of King Midas, hence the name John Midas, but in changing the object of its protagonist's desire, modifies its target in significant ways. The myth of King Midas, who loved gold above all things, targets greed as its main theme, while The Chocolate Touch highlights another of the Seven Deadly Sins, gluttony. Both stories deal with self-centeredness vs. compassion, though The Chocolate Touch does so in a manner accessible to children, although John's self-centeredness is unlike most other cases of self-centeredness that put other people at a disadvantage; in John's case he wants his family to stop telling him what he can and cannot eat.
The Chocolate Touch is still in print, and is often used in grade school curricula throughout the United States. It won the Massachusetts Children's Book Award in 1989, the Utah Children's Choice Honors Award in 1983, and the Beehive Award from the Children's Literature Association of Utah in 1983.
There is a sequel to Chocolate Touch, The Chocolate Touch II, which focuses on John's sister Mary, who experiences a similar event to John as she receives the enchanted chocolate. Eating it during the family's holiday to Disneyland, Mary then proceeds to turn a swimming pool, Mickey Mouse, the President of the United States, and John himself to chocolate, although John is able to tell Mary how to stop the chocolate touch before she changes him by accident.
- The Chocolate Touch at WorldCat
- eMints National Center, "Literature: "The Chocolate Touch" by Patrick Catling", accessed 01-21-2009
- ksagclassroom.org, The Chocolate Touch in course material and lesson plan, accessed 01-21-2009
- The Massachusetts Children's Book Award, "1989 - The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Catling", accessed 01-21-2009
- Children's Choice Honors Award, "Utah Children's Choice, 1983, for The Chocolate Touch", accessed 01-21-2009
- The Utah Beehive Awards, "Utah Children's Fiction Book Award - The Chocolate Touch By Patrick Catling (1983)", accessed 01-21-2009