Roald Dahl under the lamp


roalddahlIn advance of Roald Dahl Day on the 13 September, the iconic children’s author has been under a fair bit of scrutiny in the press.   Let’s start with:

The Bad News

Revolting Rhymes was banned from Aldi in Australia last week for being well…revolting (Aldi removes ‘slut’ from store)

Interestingly, it’s not only Australian housewives who have found the rhymes in questionable taste.   Back when Revolting Rhymes was first in production it was Dahl’s long term illustrator, Quentin Blake who had reservations. In an interview with the Telegraph back in 2012 he confessed that 
“the only time I said anything was when we did Revolting Rhymes. I thought it was a bit too rude and I wrote and said, please remember that parents read these to their children. I thought he might object – but it was fine.” 

The more recent objections, made on Facebook, are a good example of social media wielding its increasingly heavy sword of influence, but is it entirely constructive?  At Book and Kitchen we find it hard not to associate banning books with dark authoritarian regimes. Whilst there is little disagreement that the word ‘slut’ is contentious (it’s meaning having shifted somewhat over time) the role of censor is not one that sits comfortably on booksellers shoulders.  Perhaps better to preserve the right to be offended and leave the consumer with the freedom to make an educated decision to buy or not to buy.

The Good News

On a positive note, there’s alot of buzz around the publication in the Guardian Review of a previously unseen chapter of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (The Vanilla Fudge Room),  which sees the demise of Wilbur Rice, a naughty boy who didn’t make the cut for the final book which turns 50 this year.  

The illustration for the chapter was provided by… Quentin Blake (there he is again!).  There can’t be many children (or adults) who haven’t come under the spell of the very fruitful Dahl-Blake marriage – terrorised by The Witches, indignant with The Twits  and heart warmed in the BFG – and that’s just scratching the surface.


Roald Dahl sadly passed away in 1990, but Quentin Blake, aged 81 shows no signs of slowing down. His latest project is the recently opened House of Illustration tucked away in a corner of the newly revived Granary Square development behind Kings Cross.

Book and Kitchen paid a visit last week to check it out.  It currently houses the “Inside Stories” exhibition which gives a unique insight into  Quentin Blake’s creative process.  Featuring a reproduction of his desk complete with pens and rough sketches, life size illustrations bounding around the walls and a tear jerker room devoted to the emotive creation of Michael Rosen’s Sad Book.  

As an added bonus it’s right next door to the new St. Martins College of Art campus complete with gratifyingly big voyeur windows allowing you to sneak a peek at aspiring fashion designers and fine art students in full creative swing.  Definitely worth a trip at the weekend.

Michael Rosen

Rosen, M./Blake, Q., 2004. Michael Rosen’s Sad Book. 2008 ed. Walker Books

To end, in anticipation of Book and Kitchen’s “The Picture book Maker” course starting in a couple of weeks, we’ll round off with some words from the maestro on illustration. “It’s like directing a play, except that you also get to design the scenery and play all the parts.” (Quentin Blake) – which sounds pretty awesome.

The Need to Read v. The Need for Speed

AugustNewsflash for all our regulars. Book and Kitchen will be closed from tomorrow Friday 22 August to Friday 29 August for Carnival and its aftermath. We love Carnival as an expression of community spirit demonstrated perfectly by our front window book of the moment (see photo). However, books are not built for dancing in the streets so we are going to take a semi-enforced reading holiday because despite being surrounded by books, we get less opportunity to read than appearances suggest.carnival

Most of us know when to eat. At a basic level it’s a necessity of life. There are also the traditional meal times which help divide up our days. In case we’re still unsure, there are certain things that give us the urge – a rumbling stomach, the whiff of garlic cooking at Book and Kitchen or reading a mouth watering recipe.

Knowing when to read can be less obvious. In modern life, the space in our heads that is reserved for absorbing books has now become inundated by a flood of information (thanks goes out to the mighty Age of Technology). Short snappy sound bytes of info from emails and social media can sometimes feel like bursts of machine gun fire to our brain. Skim reading has become the norm. Speed is of the essence, speed makes us successful, speed…is (yawn) exhausting.

So let’s breathe, take some time out and reflect on reading.

Email-Overwhelm1The fact is our brains need to read (properly). Research is starting to show that well, while our ability to skim read is at an all time high, the reality is we’re in danger of getting more stupid.  Faced with a deluge of screens and distractions, our ability to concentrate is getting shorter and shorte and short… I would like to take this moment to give a virtual high five to anyone still reading this blog.  

In the face of an accelerated modern lifestyle, what are our options?

Option 1: Adapt

Read faster. The average reading speed of an adult is 300 wpm and that doesn’t factor in the distracting beeps from mobiles, computers, washing machines, babies.  With apps in the pipeline like Spritz, which claim to be able to up your speed to 1000 wpm, you could read War and Peace in a day (but really what’s the fun in that?).  

Read shorter. Authors have got in on the act. Check out these collection of 140 character long novels on twitter. Truly gripping. Or indulge in some TwiHaiku if you need a fix of poetry.

Option 2: Resist

Make appointments with reading. The concept of going to a restaurant for two hours to eat a meal is a complete pleasure. So how about blocking out Thursday lunch time for a 2 hour date with your current book interest?

Read anywhere. According to one researcher, out of a survey of 499, more than half of men (64%) and 41% of the women confessed to being regular toilet readers.  We’re not sure about that, but other popular reading venues include beds, sofas, gardens & parks, buses, tubes, beaches, jungles and coffee shops.  And the great thing is you don’t need to make a reservation. 

Read slow. There’s a lot to be said for letting each sentence sink in like a morsel of tasty food.   Savour the book and you’ll come away with that sense of having spent a few hours in a different world.  The added bonus is you might just remember something about it a month later.

and finally, read with imagination.

See you on the 30th to compare notes.

Book and Kitchen homework

photo 1No1: Read Aya De Yopougon

Hard to believe that September, the “Back to School” month, is coming round the corner.

In anticipation of the African Reading Group (ARG) starting up again, Book and Kitchen is swatting up. Hardly a strain as our reading material is the brilliant graphic novel Aya De Yopougon, written and illustrated by the wife/husband team of Marguerite Abouet and Clement Ourbrerie.

The story follows Aya (the sensible one) and her two fun loving friends Adjouya and Bintou as they dodge their elders’ watchful eyes to paint the city 

photoperspof Yop red.We won’t give too much away but suffice to say there is a fair dose of drama, unrequited love and teenage rebellion.

The similarities with another Book and Kitchen favourite Persepolis (by Marjane Satrapi) are hard to ignore. Both are coming of age stories set in the late 70s and early 80s. Both have an emphasis on gender roles and parental control. Both have also been translated into films (clip). But whereas Persepolis takes place in a world of stark black and white contrast, Aya is aflame with the heat, colour and bustle of the Ivory Coast. 

photo 4

We’d forgotten how much fun it is to read a graphic novel.  These two books with their evocative illustrations, gripping story lines and a generous dollop of humour are far from just being comics for adults.  

It’s been a pleasure to do our homework and for those of you who want to get involved come along to the ARG reading group event on Saturday 6 September (from 5:30 pm) to pick up a copy.  

Don’t Forget to Pack a Book

It’s work experience week here at Book and Kitchen and we have a new resident bookworm in the shape of Yasemin Gross (age 15). It turns out she’s the perfect person to do a check up on the state of our children’s section and to put together our “suitcase” of recommendations for the school holidays starting next week.

Over to her..

Books & Holidays
by Yasemin Gross

0807I am going to give a short introduction on why I read books in the holidays. It is relaxing to do when you get bored and you explore the scene, characters, theme in the story and what genre the book is. I think a book is the perfect thing to have beside you when you are travelling around the world to any country as an extra fun tool which you can take with you any where, when you have extra time and are very tired and need a good relaxing break …mmmm

You can decide if a book is right for you by reading the blurb at the back and the way in which they describe the story and the spelling, punctuation and grammar. This helps you find out what age the book is aimed at.

The books I most enjoy reading are books such as Tom Gates, Roahl Dahl, The Chronicles Of Narnia, The Hunger Games and other adventerous stories.

Here at Book and Kitchen there are a range of books you can read: childrens books, adult books, cook books, for making and creating lovely dishes especially a family get together in the summer. For the teens, like me, there is a great range of genres that are perfect such as war, adventure, funny books and comics etc.

Why not come along to Book and Kitchen before your next holiday to pick up a book or two?

Wise words Yasemine, wise words…