Sweet Treats with CKG

Tanja Jennings is the Northern Ireland YLG Judge,

she is the librarian at Wellington College, Belfast..


There is nothing better than curling up with a great book and a sweet treat so that got me thinking about the delightful concoctions that could be crafted from the delectable CKG list.

As a tester a Northern Irish shadowing group at Wellington College Belfast made their own delicious tribute to Frances Hardinge’s sinister Victorian mystery thriller The Lie Tree.



This involved constructing a trunk, branches and a soil base. Students melted Dairy Milk bars, added shredded wheat cereal and dipped, mixed and coated the grains for maximum effect.  Using the cover art as inspiration, the gooey mixture was then transferred to an enlarged template of a tree from the internet and covered with grease proof paper. Porridge oats were used for the base and buns (to represent the fruit of The Lie Tree) were made from the remaining chocolate. In the story, the more lies the tree is told the more Faith’s life spirals out of control, so sweet wrappers around WCB’s tree contained bluffs and truths about the Victorian Age to tie in with the context of the book.

To celebrate other titles on the list shadowers might like to try out more recipes to showcase and enjoy at their CKG Awards’ parties.

In One by Sarah Crossan, on pages 130-134, Grace and Tippi make Apple Pie from windfalls:

“Tippi makes the flaky pastry

while I core, peel and slice the apples,

and together we bake a pie

stuffed with cinnamon and sugar and definitely

better than anything you could

buy in a store.”

This book is a poignant and beautifully observed love poem to united twin sisters coping with extraordinary circumstances so what better way to honour it then bake an Apple Pie together with friends or family.

The Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley is set in America in 1959 at the height of wars over the integration of schools. It is a searing portrayal of racism, forbidden love across the divide and injustice. In one scene Linda and Sarah meet in the back room of Bailey’s diner, where their friend Judy works, to discuss a homework assignment. While they are there an altercation occurs over two dirty milkshake glasses, with the racist owner believing Sarah has drunk from one of them. Cherry Floats, Ice Cream Sodas, Malteds and Milkshakes were all popular drinks in 1950’s America. Use scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream and mix them with milk, carbonated water, fizzy lemonade or coca cola in a tall glass to make your own float. Top with chocolate syrup and double whipped cream for extra flavour. If you fancy a fabulously frothy toast to Talley’s book mix cherry juice with cola and ice cream.

For There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake, which is a gripping mystery thriller full of devilish twists and turns set in Arizona and the environs of the Grand Canyon, you could create a deep red velvet cake the colour of the desert to reflect the landscape of Shelby’s turbulent journey. Lake’s imagery is vivid comparing this famous landmark to “a painting by a madman with only a couple of colours in his paint set.”  Coyote and elk shaped sugar cookies using pastry cutters (wolf and deer shapes) to represent the mythological dream sequence of the protagonist’s inner world could also work.

Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here also focuses on serious issues but it is cleverly crossed with a witty parody of supernatural teen reads in the chapter headings. The engaging leading character Mikey suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. His friends and siblings are grappling with messy personal problems too. The last thing they need is Immortals threatening to blow up the high school before they can go to the prom, find love and graduate. Mikey’s best mate Jared works with him at Grillers, a steak house where they often all get together for cheesy toast and blueberry lemonades. For a sweet pizza bread twist why not whip up pizza sugar cookie slices using yellow icing. You could decorate them with smarties, sugared almonds or chocolate flakes depending on your mood. For a fizzy accompaniment, serve blueberry or raspberry lemonades by mixing up pureed fruit, freshly squeezed lemon juice, sugar and water. Top with ice cubes to chill.

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick is a change of pace. It is both historic and futuristic revelling in exploring the infinite mysteries of the universe. Themes in this ambitious novel include madness, superstition, communication and space travel. The reader is challenged to read its four segments in a different order which rotate around the central concept of a gyre. Spiral imagery appears throughout whether in the form of a spiralling falcon, the frond of a fern, the spin of a top or the turns of a staircase.

If you are feeling brave you could attempt to create caramelized sugar corkscrews, used for decoration on fancy desserts. For an easier option you could fashion strands of liquorice boot laces into spiral shapes.

Kate Saunders’ emotionally stirring sequel to E. Nesbit’s classics, Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet, Five Children on the Western Front, blends fantasy with harsh reality. Featuring the grumpy sand fairy, the psammead, from the original stories, the book explores the changing social realities of Anthea, Jane, Bob, Cyril and the Lamb along with their little sister Edie (a new character who works beautifully). The older boys are now at an age where they are compelled to face the horror of the trenches while their sisters are responding to different challenges. Saunders’ powerful story stays true to the spirit of E. Nesbit but transcends her amusing wish fulfilment fantasy capturing a world she could not have foreseen. It portrays the rifts in families caused by the savagery of World War One while expertly weaving in the redemptive journey of the tyrannical sand fairy (now a fully fleshed character). In keeping with the theme of the novel and as a mark of remembrance you could make cupcakes topped with poppy shapes.  For this you could roll out red sugar paste, imprint it with flower cutters (overlaid four petal shapes), use a dab of liquorice for the centre and green pastry for the leaves. Check https://cakealogue.wordpress.com/ for more ideas.

Fire Colour One is about art, love, loss, bereavement, greed and redemption. Its language is wonderfully evocative and Valentine skilfully crafts her eccentric characters. It is a surprising novel putting the reader on a path of discovery leading up to a climactic twist. Fire is a central theme tied in with the artist Yves Klein and the troubled psyche of Iris. Red Velvet Cupcakes iced with the main protagonist’s name would reflect the spirit of the novel. Alternatively you could make a batch of fairy cakes and use red icing with wavy lines to represent tongues of fire.

The delightfully energetic, creative, witty and playful There’s a Bear On My Chair by Ross Collins should definitely be read aloud and enjoyed with mouse and bear shaped cookies dipped in melted chocolate. If it appeals you can add icing to recreate the Fair Isle jumper pattern or write endangered to reflect the polar bear’s status. You can even experiment with an Elvis style quiff on the top of your biscuit!

Anthony Browne’s Willy’s Stories celebrates the library as a portal to adventure. The pages engage the reader directly by building up tension and offering intriguing intertextual clues and endless treasure trails to follow. It is a book to be enjoyed together and works on multi-literate levels. A chocolate cake in the shape of an open book with CLASSIC STORIES iced along its spine or a Bundt cake which can be filled with different flavours (to reflect different genres whether they be fantasy, swashbuckling action, fairy tale or anthropomorphic fun ) would be a good partner for this read.

Chris Riddell’s exquisitely illustrated unconventional Gaiman fairy tale The Sleeper and the Spindle deserves a Sleeping Beauty style cake with a Gothic edge. For inspiration you can look at Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death. Why not use purple and black icing for dramatic effect? Don’t forget to reflect his signature trademarks of gold leaf and skull motifs. You could also spin sugar to represent spindles or craft thorny branches to surround your creation.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, according to Sam from Pilgrim’s School, Hampshire (thank you for your letter) enables the reader to “dig through their imagination.” It is superbly inventive, playing with its physicality and the perceptions of its readers. After their arduous tunnelling journey all Sam and Dave want to do is eat animal biscuits. Half shortcake and half chocolate, they are an ideal treat to go with this book. As the characters determinedly dig a hole, you could eat frosted doughnuts or a Bundt cake as a tasty alternative.

Oliver Jeffers’ quirky Once Upon an Alphabet which, according to Chapel School shadowers, is full of “ingenious and colourful” vignettes, is also an alliterative and comical odyssey through the alphabet, introducing unusual characters with lessons to teach.  Alphabet cookies topped with chocolate buttons would be a fun accompaniment to this book.

Captain Jack and the Pirates illustrated by Helen Oxenbury is an elegiac and imaginative portrait of a day at the beach. It fuses full bleed colour with gentle black and white vignettes. Skull & Cross Bone shaped shortcake biscuits peppered with chocolate chips and iced with red and white polka dots would be right for this story or you could just have some ice cream like Jack, Zack and Kaspar do at the end of the story.

In Footpath Flowers, illustrated by Sydney Smith, every picture tells a story. It is about how small kindnesses can brighten our lives. Playing with different perspectives and experimenting with a distinctive colour palette, it tells the tale of a little girl’s walk home and how her world changes as she discovers the beauty of nature and resolves to use it to make others happy. Her surroundings transform as she delivers small bunches of flowers. You can have fun cutting out shortbread cookie flower shapes and icing them with yellow, red and the other shades you find as you turn the pages.

Jackie Morris’ beautifully expressive There’s Something About a Bear introduces the reader to different bears in exquisitely painted portraits celebrating their uniqueness with a mixture of verse and prose.  To create a Panda Bear cake you can make a moist chocolate sponge and immerse it in buttercream coated with white fondant. Another idea is to make his head and body out of chocolate rice crispies then use fondant and food colouring for the distinctive monochrome look. You can even paint on bamboo fronds in green. For something entirely different you could try a Sloth Bear using liquorice for its curved claws, a Polar Bear, a Spectacled Bear (using circles of maltesers to create its trademark circles around its eyes) or an endangered Moon Bear(using white fondant or whipped cream for its creamy ruff). It sounds difficult but the internet has many cake craft tips. Visit Pinterest and Twitter for more solutions.

Adieu. I hope you enjoy our scrumptious shortlists and get the time to experiment with some sweet treats.


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