Cakes in space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

posted in: Philip Reeve, Sarah McIntyre | 8

Imagine packing up your home, leaving Earth and setting out to travel across space to colonise a new planet.

The journey will take so long you’ll be put into a cryptobiotic state. But there is absolutely nothing to fear: You’re on sleek new spaceship, looked after by a team of well-programmed robots, and everything has been carefully thought through. When you finally arrive at Nova Mundi (it only takes 199 years to get there), you’ll be woken up to a delicious breakfast and the start of a whole new and wonderful life.

It sounds great, doesn’t it?

cakesinspacecoverAnd so it is in Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. Astra and her family are on their way to their new home but – you’ve guessed it – something goes wrong. Astra wakes from her suspended sleep, and feeling peckish goes off in search of a chocolate biscuit.

The Nom-O-Tron (a highly developed version of Star Trek’s Replicator) satisfies Astra’s request, but when she’s tempted to ask for something a little more outlandish (how many times have you seen the word “Ultimate” used to describe a dish?) something goes awry. Soon Astra is hurtling through space surrounded by cakes which have learned to evolve. Cakes which are fed up of being eaten themselves. Cakes which have developed a killer instinct.

Will Astra be able to save her family from the Ravenous Crispy Slices and Ferocious Fruit Cakes stalking the spaceship’s corridors? How much more complicated will things get when a second front opens up and her spaceship is raided by alien life forms known as Poglites, desperately searching for their holy grail, that technology which they haven’t been able to master: SPOONS.

Yes, this is a totally surreal and deliciously outrageous story of friendship, ingenuity and hundreds and thousands.

It’s fast-moving, exciting, just ever so slightly scary in that enjoyably adrenalin pumping way and above all it’s FUNNY! Add into the mix some genuinely beautiful writing (sometimes young fiction is all about the plot and the language – especially for an adult reading it aloud – can be somewhat unremarkable, but Reeve at times writes sentences which I found myself wanting to copy out), a plot which will enthral both boys and girls of a wide age range, and the subtle inclusion of some philosophically meatier issues (the consequences of greedy desire, the demonisation of that which we don’t know and can’t name) and you’ve got yourself a remarkable book.

Image: Sarah McIntyre. Please click on the image to be taken to the original blog post - well worth reading!
Image: Sarah McIntyre. Please click on the image to be taken to the original blog post – well worth reading!

McIntyre’s illustrations are a crazy but perfect mix of 1950s brave new world sleekness and outrageous sponge-and-icing based fantasy. I’m delighted that Astra’s family are mixed race (this isn’t mentioned in the text at all, but how great to see some diversity just as-is, without it being an issue in the book).

The top-notch content of Cakes in Space is matched by a stunningly produced physical book. Like last year’s Reeve and McIntyre production, Oliver and the Seawigs, this is first being published as a small hardback in pleasingly chunky, strokingly hand-holdable format. Everything about the book is appealing.

After indulging in a solo read, I read this book aloud to both girls over a couple of days last week. Before we’d even finished the books my girls were off to raid the cutlery draw in the kitchen for highly prized spoons to create a collection of which any Poglite would be proud.

spooncollection1

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Carefully curated, they labelled every spoon with where it had been found in the galaxy, its rarity and its monetary value (I can see how this could develop into a Top Trumps game…)
spooncollection3

Spoons are one thing, but cake is another, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to host our own mini Cakes in Space party. We baked a host of fairy cakes and then turned them into KILLER CAKES…

cakesinspace3

Lollies made great eyes on stalks…

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… as did Maltesers and Aero balls.

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We had fun making teeth out of snapped white chocolate buttons, tictacs and rice paper snipped to look like rows of sharp teeth.

cakesinspace10

We also had some Ferocious Florentines and Sinister Swiss Rolls (helped along with edible eyes).

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Other characters from the book were also present: The Nameless Horror was a big bowl of wobbly jelly dyed black with food colouring and with licorice shoelaces reaching out across the table, and jars of purple gloop (thinned down Angel Delight, again dyed to give a good purple colour) with gummy snakes in them made perfect Poglite snacks. Alas these were guzzled before I got to take a photo!

Preparing for the party was at least as much fun as the party itself…

cakesinspace7

Great music for a Cakes in Space party includes:

  • Cake by Mindy Hester & The Time Outs – heavily influenced by George Michael’s Faith
  • Peggy Seeger with Ewan MacColl, “The Space Girl’s Song”
  • I like Pie, I like Cake by the Four Clefs
  • To the Moon by the Mighty Buzzniks
  • Man in the Moon by The Full English. This comes from the album Sarah McIntyre listened to a lot whilst illustrating Cakes in Space.
  • Crunch munchy honey cakes by The Wiggles… not everyone’s cup of tea but it is sort of earwormy…

  • Other activities which would make for a great Cakes in Space party include:

  • COSTUMES! Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve have the most amazing Cakes in Space costumes (you can see them here), but if you want some inspiration for your own costumes you could try these: Using a bucket and plastic tray to create an astronaut costume as per Spoonful, how to create a papier-mรขchรฉ helmet on StitchCraftCreations, a Pinterest board dedicated to cake costumes.
  • ROBOTS! I’d pile a load of “junk” from the recycling bin on the table and let the kids loose on designing and building their own robots or spaceships. NurtureStore has some ideas to get you going.
  • SLEEPING PODS! For the grown ups at the party if no-one else… You could use large cardboard boxes painted silver lined with duvets, and with the lids cut out and replaced with something see-through, with bottle tops/lids stuck on for the various buttons… you get the idea!

  • We’ve all heard of Death by Chocolate, but what’s the nearest you’ve come to being killed by a cake?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Cakes in Space from the publishers.

    8 Responses

    1. That all looks like so much fun! I especially love the spoon collection ๐Ÿ™‚
      Anamaria recently posted..48 Hour Book Challenge: Diverse mg and ya books

    2. Thanks Anamaria, yes the spoon collection is much to be admired ๐Ÿ˜‰ (I didnt’ realise I had such treasures lurking in the bottom of my “throw-it-all-in-there” cutlery drawer!
      Zoe recently posted..Cakes in space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

    3. Wow wow wow! Fantastic!
      Candy Gourlay recently posted..I Filmed the Guardian’s Quickfire Interview by Mistake

    4. SIMONE FRASER

      This one’s cinched it: Zoe, could you or your daughters please – PLEASE – adopt me?

    5. Cakes in Space sounds like a fun book to use for a book themed birthday party ๐Ÿ™‚
      Catherine recently posted..Seaside picture books

    6. Consider it done Simone ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Yes, Catherine – this would make a great book themed birthday party for both boys and girls and quite a wide age range too. I’d love to be able to give out a copy of the book with each such invite!

    7. Ray Arnold

      Dear Web Admin,

      Just wanted to start off saying that I love: http://www.playingbythebook.net/

      In fact, I spent my afternoon yesterday on some of your categories and I saw some awesome collection there.

      Actually, I have launched a website that covers 7000+ Audio books, ebooks for free download.

      As a huge fan I’d be honored if you’d consider my website: http://www.loyalbooks.com/ as a resource source in your resource page: http://www.playingbythebook.net/audiobook-resources/. If not, it’s cool. I’ll still read your stuff!

      Thanks,
      (Ray Arnold)

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