On Eating books

posted in: David Sinden, Nikalas Catlow | 26

ediblebooksneakpreview.jpgI can’t resist any longer… I’ve just got to let you know that the International Edible Book Festival returns to Playing by the book next month, even bigger and better thank last year (which was already pretty spectacular :-))

The official announcement with all the details of how you can enter, wherever you are in the world, what you could win, and just WHO is this year’s patron will come next month (but to get an idea you can look at what happened last year). Do mark your diaries NOW and get your thinking caps on so that come the second half of February / 1st half of March you’re all ready to BAKE SOME BOOKS!

donteatthisbook_frontcoverWhetting our appetite, over Christmas we enjoyed Don’t Eat This Book by David Sinden and Nikalas Catlow. This is an activity book which, in the spirit of creativity, encourages you to to do things you don’t normally and deliberately do to books. This could mean tearing pages out, trying out stunts with the book, deliberately squishing food in between the pages and squirting paint at it from a paint-filled water pistol. There are comic strips to complete, lists to make and illustrate, and games to play; all in all an eclectic mix of activities, some rather unusual and edgy, most of them much more spirited than traditional colouring-in activity books.

If you don’t subscribe to the tenet “to create is to destroy” (Do you think it was outrageous to deface the Tate’s Rothko’s painting, or an act or art itself?) you might feel somewhat uncomfortable giving this book to a child. Anxious booklovers might worry that Don’t Eat This Book encourages children to see books as disposable objects, not worthy of treating carefully.


I can’t say I’m in that camp. Yes, the book does encourage the reader to stand on the book, mess the book up, tear the book, in fact to do anything you like to the book other than eat it, but I don’t believe this will result in the young reader doing the same to other books on their shelves. The whole point about Don’t Eat This Book is that it is special, different to other books. This is the one book you are allowed to do all those forbidden things to, and boy is it fun!

A Wreck-This-Journal written specifically for kids, Don’t Eat This Book is slightly anarchic, mischievous and a great book for rainy days / under duvets / in dens / on journeys, for kids who like their activity books to be ACTIVE.

As well as getting creative with Don’t Eat This Book we HAD to make some books we could actually eat. Here’s what we came up with:

The hardback book covers were two rectangular biscuits, with inside pages made from rice paper, all bound together with a small length of ready-to-roll icing (which handles like playdoh to begin with, but hardens up once left alone). We used a few sprinkles to embellish the book spines.


Before we assembled the books we used edible ink pens (available from cake decorating shops) to write short stories on our rice paper pages.


As you can see, they went down very well, bringing a slightly different meaning to internalising the story!


Whilst doodling, scribbling, and eating books we’ve been listening to:

  • The Books I Like to Read by Frances England (and also the cover by The Hipwaders done for Sesame Street)
  • I Read a Book Every Day by Rick Goldin
  • Read a Book by Marissa Begin
  • (I’ll Never Forget) The Day I Read A Book by Jimmy Durante

  • Other fun things to try if you like the sound of Don’t Eat This Book include:

  • Nosy Crow’s Mega Mash Up series – Nikalas Catlow is half of the team behind this series as well as half of the team behind Don’t Eat This Book. The Mega Mash Up books combine crazy stories with doodling; the books are half picture book, have activity book, and I’d particularly recommend them to kids who don’t like to sit still whilst reading.
  • Doodlepedia, published by Dorling Kindersley. This is a really fun combination of a non-fiction book and drawing/colouring book. A great one for encouraging “incidental” reading.

  • So where do you stand on books which encourage you to make them your own? Do you think it encourages creativity? Do you think no-one, under any circumstances, should be encouraged to rip pages and scribble in books? What activity books have your kids enjoyed recently?

    Disclosure: I was sent a copy of Don’t Eat This Book by one of the authors. I was under no obligation to review the book, I received no payment, and today’s review remains my own, honest opinion about the book.

    26 Responses

    1. BooKa Uhu

      That. Is. Amazing! Those also happen to be some of my most favourite biscuits ever so three guesses what I’m doing this weekend!

      Intrigued by Eat This Book – I’ll go check it out. It’s amazing what you find while blogging -thank you!

    2. Zoe

      Hey Booka Uhu – if you try it out, let me know how you get on. When we rolled our icing into binding we used a knife to cut slits to put the paper in to. Bit of sugar overload to eat, but sometimes you’ve got to “suffer” for one’s love of books!
      Zoe recently posted..On Eating books

    3. Zoe

      Hi Gisele! Hope you find some rice paper…

      Bookaholic Mum – I do hope you’ll be able to join the festival this year. The emphasis again will be on fun rather than icing prowess (although icing prowess is welcome too)
      Zoe recently posted..On Eating books

    4. Zoe

      Helen, Polly, I do hope you’ll join in this year! Helen, perhaps an App? An iphone cake with a picture from your favourite book app?? Polly, what about something inspired by the Phoenix?

    5. Zoe

      Thanks Melissa. We thought about using cheese slices as pages but decided against it in the end for these – not sure how well chocolate biscuits and cheese mix!
      Zoe recently posted..On Eating books

    6. BooKa Uhu

      ‘Bit of sugar overload to eat, but sometimes you’ve got to “suffer” for one’s love of books!’

      And how we must suffer – it’s a terribly cruel world sometimes, isn’t it? :p

    7. Donna L Martin

      Greetings! I’m hopping over from the 2013 Comment Challenge. You have a lovely blog. Those books are about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen! Here’s to a fun and productive 2013!

      Donna L Martin

    8. Myra from GatheringBooks

      First person that came to mind was Jama Rattigan. Haha. I love all those photographs! Adorable! Edible books = Lovelovelove! As a rule, I don’t really encourage tearing up pages of a book – but I do scribble, highlight, underline, earmark – particularly if it’s something I use in my class. BUT. If it’s a picture book or titles that I truly treasure, that’s a no-no. 🙂
      Myra from GatheringBooks recently posted..Jan/Jun 2012 AWB Reviews

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