Angus and Lucy live in a family where there’s not much money to go around. They don’t have a TV or a car, and their home is a small caravan. Squashed into a cluttered space, the family reluctantly has to get rid of the books they own, but in doing so they find their lives become emotionally emptier. Yes, they may have more space, but that which (both metaphorically and literally) kept them on an even keel, enabled them to reach above themselves and most importantly, acted as family glue through shared stories is lost. Perhaps it is not a price worth paying?
Or perhaps there’s another solution, one which keeps the family rich in reading, sharing stories and with the space they need to breath? Can you guess what it might be? (If you want a clue, you might note that I’m sharing this book today, October 9, on start of the UK’s national Libraries Week, “the annual showcase of all the creative, innovative and diverse activities that UK libraries have to offer“…)
The Children Who Loved Books by Peter Carnavas, an uplifting, warm-hearted celebration of the power of books and the glory of public libraries, is one of the most delightful picture books I’ve read recently. Gently exploring themes of poverty (and the sort of wealth that ultimately matters), family cohesion, consumption and how much “stuff” we can all too easily accumulate, Carnavas’ enchanting book combines boldness and grace in a memorable and joyous way.
Carnavas’ light-touch illustrations are imbued with warmth and light and gloriously depict a family which revels in reading. Humour lifts the (in every sense) worthy messages and much of the book’s heft comes from the way it shows rather than tells; this family may not have much, but they look so happy that you want a bit of what they’re having. I particularly thrilled with the nod to how shared reading creates bonds between people. One of the things that makes me happiest is overhearing conversations between my girls and their Dad or other family members and friends about books they’ve loved. Even if the sharing of stories doesn’t happen at the same time, a mutual experience of a book can bring people together in such a powerful and lasting way, and it’s heartening to see that acknowledged in The Children Who Loved Books.
I would be very happy in a world where all children loved books as much as Angus and Lucy do. This got me thinking about what else I could do to get kids (and their grown-ups) more excited about libraries and books, apart form enthusing about my favourite books here on the blog.
And then it came to me….
A CHOCOLATE LIBRARY.
You see, it’s not only national Libraries Week this week, it is also the UK’s national Chocolate Week!
So now the challenge was to create said chocolate library. Yes, a whole stack of books made out of chocolate, ready to be eaten. I’ve made a library out of shop-bought chocolates before, but now I wanted to up my game.
So how did I do it? First I created three batches of modelling chocolate based Make Pretty Cake’s very simple recipe (two ingredients!). One batch exactly followed the Make Pretty Cake’s recipe, but in the second batch I swapped the golden syrup for dulce de leche, and in the third batch I added a heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder.
Then I used rectangular cookie cutters to create the inside blocks (the pages) and the wrap-around covers for the books, before using icing modelling tools to add detail. Videos from Zoe’s Fancy Cakes (no relation!) helped me with ideas for how to get an effective basic book shape. Working with modelling chocolate was very like using sculpey or fimo; it took a bit of effort to get it malleable, but once warmed up it was very easy (and enjoyable!) to work with. You cannot imagine how good it smells…
If you want to find out more about modelling chocolate, you might find (as I did) this article from Sweetie Darling or this one from Cakes Decor useful. This very detailed sheet on modelling chocolate from Cake Paper Party may also give you confidence if you want to give modelling chocolate a go.
Disclaimer: I was sent a free review copy of The Children Who Loved Books by the book’s publisher, New Frontier Publishing. Peter Carnavas is an award-winning illustrator from Australia who deserves to be much more widely known across the globe and so I’m very happy that New Frontier Publishing are bringing his work to the UK and I encourage you to check out the other books they offer by Peter, including favourites of mine The Last Tree in the City, an inspiring story about creating a better environment for us all, and Jessica’s Box, a funny and touching story about worries, friendship and the magic of cardboard boxes.