The story of "The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree" is a story of friendship, adventure, discovery, and the kind of fantasy and magic that make you question the way modern science wants us to view the world. Have you met Max, Itzel, Luna and everyone else from JCT?  If you have, you can skip this page if you like, because you already know the story—there's so much more on this site to explore!

And if you haven't, here's a synopsis and praise from people in the business we really respect (yep, adults. Well, there is one kid who reviewed the book, can you guess who it is?).

Ok. Done reading?  What are you waiting for—get the book and become a Cacao Code Seeker!



Max Hammond has a life other science-obsessed boys his age only dream of: he travels the world with his bee researcher dad and science writer mom.

When the Hammond family arrives in Guatemala to study the enigmatic stingless bees of the Maya, Max meets Itzel, a young Maya girl who introduces him to the magic and wonders of rainforest gardens and animal spirit guides. It’s a world that transforms the meaning of all the science Max has ever learned—but its magic is not always benevolent.

One night, Itzel takes Max to an ancient cacao tree tended in secret deep in the jungle by an elite group of Elders. Neither Max nor Itzel are prepared for the forces they unleash when they open the pods of the sacred tree, forces that turn everything they know about the history of cacao upside down, threaten the past and future of the world’s most desirable food, and, worse still, awaken two mythic beasts guarding the very DNA of cacao.

The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree is Book One of the "Max and the Code of Harvests" series.



A mesmerizing, imaginative smorgasbord of facts and fantasy blended into a charming tale.

— Allen Young, PhD
Curator Emeritus, Milwaukee Public Museum
Author of The Chocolate Tree

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After reading almost every book or blog on the subject, The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree is a strong contender for the best title in the last 5 years.

— Mark Christian, The

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The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree takes us on a vivid trip back through time and place to re-live the ancient rituals and tales of the Maya—and the central role of cacao in their society and their lives.  It brings to life in a sensitive way all of the stories I have heard. I could not put the book down!

— Ed Seguine
Seguine Cacao Cocoa & Chocolate Advisors / Guittard Chocolate Co.

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Who would have thought the world of chocolate hid so many secrets and mysteries? Brought to life through the eyes of two remarkable children Max and Itzel, this beautifully illustrated book draws you into the magical realm of the chocolate-giving Cacao Tree and the exuberant biodiversity that surrounds it. ... Grab your detective hat and help Max and Itzel when they realize something goes terribly wrong... you’ll be glad you did! 

— Sharon Edgar Greenhill
Co-author, Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods
Producer, Blue Deer Productions

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A fantastical tale for young adults that explains, through chocolate and the sacred cacao from which it manifests, how we can preserve biodiversity and celebrate the cultures that sustain it. 

— Simran Sethi
Author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate; The Slow Loss of Foods We Love

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This is a thrilling and marvelous book in almost every way. It’s full of adventure, mythology, magic and a wondrous plot.

— Phoebe Eckstein
Writer and book reviewer, Phoebe's Bookshelf

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The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree offers an original perspective on a meeting of ancient and modern cultures in the forests of Guatemala, whilst deftly revealing the threads that bind us all together. A heady blend of honey and chocolate, science and mythology, help oil the wheels of this rollercoaster treat for younger readers.

— Dan Eatherley
Author of Bushmaster: Raymond Ditmars and the Hunt for the World’s Largest Viper

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If only you could see the look on Nikolas' face when I read to him… I have to keep reminding him to eat his breakfast (so we can get to school on time) as he sits totally enraptured by the magic. 

— Anthony Ferguson
Master chocolatier, Niko B Chocolates

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Filled with courage, respect, honesty and unconditional love, Birgitte Rasine's The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree gives us a marvelous adventure that reminds us just how remarkable and capable we all really are.

Each turn of the page reveals a journey of awakening to a deeper awareness of self and dares to connect us one and all on a profound universal level.

— Harold W. Becker
Author and Founder, The Love Foundation Inc.

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Thanks for allowing us to be part of this unfolding story. There is a lump in my throat to leave Max, Itzel, and Luna especially.

— Ruth Varner
Author, grandmother and beta reader

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