Archive for September, 2016

Competition – Great Literary Bake Off

Bruce Bogtrotter-inspired chocolate cake


Everyone remembers the bit in Roald Dahl’s Matilda when poor Bruce Bogtrotter is forced to eat an enormous chocolate cake just to himself. We know that there will be some who would like to try it for themselves, especially as this week we’re celebrating the centenary of Roald Dahl, so we’ve put together a Bruce Bogtrotter-inspired chocolate cake recipe for you and the little ones to try – ‘you can do it, Brucey!’

For the chocolate cake:

3 large eggs
175g self-raising flour
175g caster sugar
175g softened butter
1½ level tsp baking powder
40g cocoa powder
4 tbsp boiling water

For the chocolate spread:

150ml double cream
150g plain chocolate

You will also need:

2 x 17cm deep sandwich tins, greased and lined with non-stick baking paper


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C, gas 4.
  2. Beat the eggs, flour, caster sugar, butter and baking powder until smooth in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Put the cocoa in separate mixing bowl, and slowly add the water to make a stiff paste. Add to the rest of the cake mixture.
  4. Put into the sandwich tins, level the top and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins.
  5. Leave to cool in the tin, then turn on to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. To make the icing: measure the cream and chocolate into a bowl and carefully melt over a pan of hot water over a low heat, or gently in the microwave for 1 min. Stir until melted, then set aside to cool a little and thicken up.
  7. To ice the cake: spread half of the chocolate spread on one of the cakes, then lay the other cake on top, sandwiching them together.
  8. Use the remaining chocolate spread to ice the top of the cake – and gorge!

The formula to nurturing a well-rounded child

Classic children’s adventure books such as Swallows & Amazons and Famous Five revealed as having the greatest impact on our personalities and interests as we develop into adults.


A survey that we have recently conducted has revealed that the kind of books we choose to read as children have a clear impact on the personality traits and interests we develop as adults.

One thousand UK respondents aged between 18 and 65 were asked to select one of a number of children’s book groups, which most accurately described their reading tastes as children. Next, they were asked to select three personality traits and three hobbies that best described how they are, and what they enjoy now. The data was then analysed to determine trends and patterns, and found that children’s adventure books such as Swallows and Amazons had the biggest impact on our adult personalities, followed by more serious titles such as Anne Frank.

People who read fantasy titles such as The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter were the most likely to describe themselves as imaginative (25.4%) and have an interest in astronomy (6.8%), whereas people who read soft horror/gore titles such as Goosebumps and Horrible Histories were most likely to consider themselves to be brave (14.7%) and enjoy spirituality/ghost hunting (12%).


Readers of fun, imagination books such as The Cat in the Hat revealed themselves to be the cheekiest (14.4%) and wittiest (15.6%) and have the greatest interest in gaming (23.3%), whereas people who read more serious titles such as The Diary of Anne Frank and War Horse were most likely to say that their leading personality traits were honesty (50%) followed by intellect (25%). They also proved themselves to be the most charitable, with 19% of readers citing volunteering as an interest.

Fans of classic adventure books such as Swallows & Amazons, Famous Five etc. described themselves as handy/resourceful (22%) and law-abiding (24.9%), and expressed the greatest interest in puzzles (21.7%).

The study also analysed book selection by city: with The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Winnie-the-Pooh and Paddington Bear most popular in Edinburgh (27%) in contrast to The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia etc. in Liverpool (29%) and Swallows & Amazons, Famous Five etc. in Newcastle (22%).

Overall, the data revealed clear correlations between book themes and associated interests/traits, and while less common hobbies/interests such as astronomy, volunteering etc. were not heavily selected across the board, there was an evident association between a heightened level of interest in a more niche hobby, and the reading of a related book group.

The study also acknowledged the benefits of reading books that spanned a variety of genres in order to develop an interest in a broad range of hobbies, and guide young readers towards adopting traits that would help ensure a well-rounded personality. Parents who may wish their children to be intellectual but honest, sporty, compassionate and witty could, for example, encourage the reading of Winnie the Pooh, Famous Five, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Cat in the Hat and Charlotte’s Web.


Sue Palmer, literacy specialist and author of many books on child development (including Toxic Child and 21st Century Boys) said: “It is not surprising that favourite books from childhood affect our personalities as we grow older. Not only are stories emotionally and intellectually stimulating, but reading – or even listening to a book read aloud – engages our attention in a very active way. So when mum or dad shares a favourite book as a bedtime story, it’s a special experience. And when children discover their own favourites, it’s like making new friends.

“Screen-based entertainment, like TV or a computer game, tends to be a transitory experience. But good books live on in children’s minds, affecting the way they think and behave. And for parents, there’s the reassurance that children’s fiction is written for children, by people who care about their welfare, so the influence it exerts is hugely positive.”

Claudia Mody, Children’s Book Buying Director at Book People said: “We know that many children have a favourite book genre or type of book, but we were surprised to discover just how much our childhood reading choices shape us in adult life. Encouraging children to read a mix of books is only ever going to have a positive effect on personal development, and they may discover something new that they love!”

Roald Dahl Day dress-up ideas

matildadressupWith this month seeing 100 years of Roald Dahl, what better way to bring his stories to life than fancy dress? Whether your school is dressing up, or you’re simply a big fan of the books, here are just a few ideas to help you and your little ones celebrate the Roald Dahl Day festivities in style.


A BFG costume can be simple for even the littlest of fans, fashion a pair of oversized ears and team with a white shirt, brown waistcoat and fishing net -you’ll be ready to catch dreams in no time.




If Matilda is your favourite of Roald Dahl’s characters, a plain blue dress, a headband and a comfy pair of shoes are all that is needed. Don’t forget to collect a pile of your favourite books, too!



Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

For a more dapper look, why not try a Willy Wonka costume? You will need a purple jacket and a bow tie, a top hat and a cane. If you don’t have a bow tie, a ribbon will be an excellent substitution – he is known for his eccentricity after all.

If you are looking for a costume you can coordinate with your friends, the oompa-loompas are an excellent choice. A green wig, white trousers or dungarees and a brown top are essential. Don’t forget plenty of orange face paint and a pair of white gloves to top it off.

To find out more about the beloved author and his marvellous books, take a look at our Roald Dahl author page.

The 5 stages of your child starting school


This time last year I was in a very similar situation to thousands of unhappy parents all around the country – I had to watch in horror as my sweet little girl left for her very first day of school. It was a difficult experience, one that give me a horrendous sense of foreboding when I think I have to live through this traumatic experience twice again in the next couple of years.

To help some other parents through what I would describe as ‘the poopiest day ever’, I’ve broken down the five stages of your child starting school…



My baby can’t be starting school. They are too little. They were only born, like, a year ago. How will they cope? How will I cope?

Nope. Not happening.



What if they hate it? What if they hate their teacher? What if their teacher hates them? What if they don’t make friends, don’t get invited to parties, don’t eat their lunch, etc, etc.

(BTW – they will eat their lunch, including all the things they refuse to eat at home).



“Let me brush your hair before we leave the house and we’ll go to the park on the way home.”

“Do your homework before dinner and you can have pudding.”

“Walk a little bit faster and we won’t have to sign the late book… AGAIN!”



Sharing the excitement of your child learning to read words for the very first time, listening to them happily chatting about their day at school. Maybe this isn’t so bad…



My child is learning, growing and happy. This school thing is okay.

There is also the acceptance that you will receive 30 emails a week about various school events, most of which require some kind of participation that you will never quite be prepared for. World Book Day costume anyone? Victorian Day? Bake sale? Arrrrrgggghhhh. Maybe I’m still working on the acceptance!

Books to help you through this difficult year

To help you through their first year (that first horrible, HORRIBLE year when your little person isn’t at home making a mess any more – I miss the mess!!!), I’ve picked out my top 5 books to survive your child’s first year at school.

Learn to Write Wipe-Clean Collection – 10 Books

We had a set of these for a year or so before my daughter started school. They were great to give her a head start on pen control and writing letters and numbers.



Biff, Chip and Kipper Levels 1-3 – 33 Books

Once my daughter started to enjoy reading, she was desperate to read more than just the 3 books a week from school. This collection has been perfect for keeping her supplied with appropriate, phonics based reading.



Dolly Dressing collection – 10 Books

These are so handy to have. As they are only £1 per book, they are perfect for using as a reward. In Sophie’s school, each week one child from each class gets put into the ‘Gold book’ for good work or behaviour, so if Sophie was chosen I could reward her with a sticker book.


A Year of Rainbow Magic Boxed Collection – 52 Books

The first year at school can be quite challenging for children, so having a good bedtime routine with time to wind down and talk about their day is really important. I take 5 mins to let my daughter chat about her day and then I will read a few chapters of a Rainbow Magic Fairies book to help her switch off and settle for the night.


Book People Collections and Gift Range

Your child will likely be invited to 20 + parties in their first year of school. As everyone settles into friendship groups, ‘whole class’ parties are typical, which is lovely but can be expensive. I have found the collections of books (such as the Mega Character Colouring Collection) make perfect party bag gifts or pass the parcel prizes if you are hosting a whole class of children, while the Book People’s gift range offers really affordable presents for other children’s parties. I bought several of the lovely make your own ranges – Princess and Pirate Peg Dolls, Paint Your Own Mugs/Gnomes, Jigsaws and Games and have kept them in a box ready for the next party invite! See the full gift range here.


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