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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!”

Top 5 books from school that we didn’t appreciate as children

Do you remember the books you read at school? At the time, some of them could not have been less appreciated, if we’re honest, but looking back now they provided us with our first exposure to some of the world’s finest, most celebrated fiction. And as the new school year is fast approaching for all of our children, we thought it would be fun to run through the books from our school days that we REALLY should have appreciated more at the time.

best books from school


Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men book

Written by the great John Steinbeck and published in 1937, Of Mice and Men tells the story of migrant ranch workers George and Lennie, who move from place to place through California in search of work during the United States’ Great Depression.

Way back when we were reading Of Mice and Men at school, we likely couldn’t see past the early 20th century setting, dead puppies and that strange glove that Curley wore, but the book is a compelling and captivating exploration of dreams, loneliness, companionship and oppression – themes you might not appreciate fully until you’re a little older, like we are.




Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies book

Written by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding in 1954, Lord of the Flies tells the tale of a group of British boys stuck on an uninhabited island during a nuclear war, who attempt to govern themselves with truly dire results.

When we were reading Lord of the Flies at school, most of us would have likely been distracted by passing notes (notes – those were the days!) and carving our names into the desk with a protractor, but Lord of the Flies is a fascinating parable about civilisation, innocence and the universality of human nature – if only we’d known at the time.





To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird book

Published in 1960, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most celebrated works of modern literature. The book, too, takes place during the Great Depression of the United States and tells the story of Atticus Finch, an attorney appointed to defend a black man who has been accused of raping a young white woman, narrated by his daughter, Scout.

While some of the racial epithets used were a bit distracting and shocking to us as younger readers, To Kill a Mockingbird remains a warm and humorous juxtaposing examination of very serious issues including rape and racial inequality.





Frankenstein book

Written by author Mary Shelley and published in 1818, Frankenstein tells the story of a young Genevan scientist who creates a creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment, told as a final correspondence between a ship’s captain and his sister.

As young whipper-snappers, we were likely preoccupied with whatever was going to go on at lunchtime rather than taking in the themes of the book. While Frankenstein’s language may have been a bit difficult to digest during our school years, too, looking back it’s a fine example of both gothic and romantic fiction, and is considered by many the catalyst for the creation of the science fiction genre.




The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby book

Penned by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925, The Great Gatsby tells the story of the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, who has passionate obsession for the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan.

A bit of a depressing read for younger readers and, if we’re honest, a bit of a slow burner that lacks in the form of monstrous characters to keep our at-the-time short attention focussed on its pages, The Great Gatsby is a curious and glamorous tale that explores human aspiration and the depraved side of the American dream.





The Baddest Book Characters

Including tales of adventure, magic and true childhood wonder, there’s something brilliant about an engaging children’s book. But do you ever remember having to put a book down for being too scared of a certain baddy? Or having to sleep with the light on for fear of story-induced nightmares?

Everyone has that one character that sticks out in their heads as having sparked a couple of nightmares as a child. Whether it’s the Grand High Witch from Roald Dahl’s The Witches, or the Child Catcher from Ian Flemming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a novel’s baddy is often the one that evokes the biggest reaction among readers, especially younger ones.

But how much fright is too much? We’ve been thinking about the baddest story book characters recently, and after surveying a bunch of parents, we discovered that a third of them wouldn’t read their children a book with a scary villain in. However despite this, a large proportion of parents (84%) said that baddies are important in children’s books.

Baddest Book Characters

In some cases, reading about a bad character can be one of the most descriptive, imaginative parts of a children’s book, but to get a clearer picture, we decided to chat to child psychologist Emma Kenny to find out her views on whether fear is important in a child’s development. You can find the full interview below:

Do you think fear is an important emotion for children to experience? 

“Absolutely! In fact fear is imperative in realising courage. Essentially when we learn to cope with our fears, it enables us to take healthy risks, and positive risk taking is associated with a whole host of positive traits. These include resilience, a sense of agency, great communication and a willingness to try new things.”

What role do you think fear plays in children’s literature and what can children learn from it? 

“There are lots of positives that can be drawn from the role of fear in children’s literature, these include engaging a moral conscience, so learning to take sides with the forces of good for example. Fear is something that we encounter in lots of situations, so understanding what it is and enabling a child to have a fear ‘compass’ is an equipping experience for a child.”

Do you think children can learn important life lessons from ‘bad’ or scary characters in children’s books? 

“Scary characters are great in helping children ‘hook’ into stories, being tucked up safely in bed, whilst vicariously experiencing a sense of manageable fear through the pages of a book, helps children self-regulate their anxiety.

Bad characters can also help children safely explore the dark side of humanity and in doing so helps teach them about their own strengths and weaknesses.

There are some clear life lessons that the negative characters help to translate. Fairy tales often offer main characters consequences when they fail to take advice, this can help children realise consequential thinking.”

Were there any literary characters that particularly scared you as a child and what lessons did you learn from them? 

“I used to get freaked out by the ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff”, which sounds ridiculous. I love animals and am a vegetarian, so the idea that this big troll was just waiting to pounce on a goat really upset me. It didn’t matter how many times I read it, I always thought that one day the troll would get lucky and gobble one of the goats up. On reflection I can see that this related to not wanting anything bad to happen to my family and also the fact that I had a fair few wooden bridges that me and my friends used to play on seemed to bring the story to life for me.”

Is it a bad thing for parents to actively shelter their children from children’s books that may frighten them?

“Children will be exposed to fear in their lives and whilst it’s understandable that parents wish to shield their children from negative emotions, the truth is that it’s healthy to enable kids to have a wide emotional vocabulary.

Life isn’t always fair, people are not always kind and we lose people we love. This is all part of life and trying to protect children from these issues means they will have a rude awakening should the find themselves dealing with an unsavoury experience.”

Are there any signs to watch for when your child has become too fearful of a particular experience?

“Children are pretty capable of letting you know when they feel unhappy or scared and if they are asking you to stop reading then it’s best to do so. However in such a circumstance it is also healthy to promote a discussion about how they feel so that you can reassure them.

If your child starts having nightmares, or suddenly wants to sleep with the light on then it may be worth changing the book to one with a happier tone, returning to the scary story when they are feeling less spooked.”

The secret to academic success? Colouring in!

New research that we at Book People have conducted has identified the UK’s biggest colouring-in hot spots – and it looks like it’s a university affair, with Oxford and Cambridge residents top the list of crayon wielding adults.


The findings, based on how many adult colouring books were purchased on average per person over the past eight months, found that the battle of universities is not only restricted to league tables or boat races, but crayoning too. With Oxford topping the list of colouring in cities, closely followed by Newcastle and their mortal opponents, Cambridge.

Over the past year we’ve been amazed by the rapid growth in popularity of adult colouring books. With recent reports showing that a shortage in colouring pencils could be on the horizon, it seems the trend for colouring in is only getting bigger. It’s surprising to see Oxbridge so high in the colouring rankings, we can only assume the next Stephen Hawking is colour coding their crayons in between their theoretical cosmology lectures!


Of the types of adult colouring books the public are purchasing, patterns, animals and nature were the most popular niches, with two thirds (66%) of people choosing one of those genres.

It also seems the popularity of The Great British Bake Off has had an impact on our colouring preferences, particularly in Cardiff where 12% of all colouring books purchased were cake related.

In Cambridge, it looks like academic types could be busy shading in Brad Pitt’s cheekbones, with 10% of all colouring books bought on the topic of famous faces.

Speaking of why Oxbridge may have come so high in the colouring rankings, Dr Nick Smith, courses director and founder of Oxford Open Learning Trust, commented: “For students in a high pressured academic environment such as Oxford or Cambridge colouring is the perfect means of relaxation.

“Adult colouring books are not only a great way to engage your creative side, but they encourage users to take a break from technology and the stresses of daily life – so we couldn’t recommend them more highly for any students needing some ‘me-time’.”

Mali Lewis, a postgraduate from Leeds Beckett University, used colouring books as a means of relaxation in her final year of university: “Studying for my finals was an intense time, with dissertation hand-in just around the corner, I often turned to colouring as a way to detach myself from work and unwind. I love any of the books by Millie Marotta – her illustrations are so calming, you can get lost in them for hours.”



All figures based on sales data from Book People, from July 2015 to March 2016.

The UK’s top ten colouring cities:

Newcastle upon Tyne


Most popular colouring in genres:

Genre Percentage of people who’ve bought this genre of colouring book from Book People
Patterns 23%
Animals 23%
Nature 20%
Urban 10%
Cake 5%
Famous Faces 4%


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