What felt like a million years ago, I was nominated to do the #7books challenge on the Twitterland and this was my post. For those not familiar with this ‘challenge’ – you’re nominated to post covers of 7 books that you love, with no reviews or explanations. Now that we’re in this bloody lockdown, I feel like I can do a bit of reflecting on the pretty random selection of books that I really want to share. Note that there are many other books not listed here, but these were the ones that happened to be nearest at the time of posting the initial challenge! I’m not going to do all 7 books at once (that would make a super long read for you) so I’ll do a short series of posts about each book. So here goes, book no. 1:
Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here – Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake
As a child, I grew up in a tiny town in the middle of Wiltshire where there wasn’t a *huge* amount to do. I would have the usual after/out of-school stuff (Brownies/Guides, netball, piano lessons, dancing), but there wasn’t a whole lot else.
Primary school was a bit of an odd experience as for the whole time I was there, I was the only Chinese child in the school (and for a long while, the ‘only Chinese child in the village’ until my cousins came along). There were times when I noticed that I was ‘different’ from everyone else and connecting with a culture that I had yet to embrace was sometimes challenging. English was not my first language, and I distinctly remember the moment I understood that I spoke in ‘two ways’; one to my family, and the other to the kids I was at playschool with. Learning English from my family got me into some hilarious situations – like the time I realised that a ‘knife’ was not ‘life’ and that ‘maps’ were not ‘mats’.
Luckily, reading was never an issue for me at primary school and one of the things that I learned to love, and used as a way of connecting with other children in my class, was reading children’s poetry. It made reading fun and enjoyable, and often gave me the confidence to read things out loud. As a relatively shy and ‘conscientious’ child, reading things out loud to the class was pretty scary. My favourite books were by Roald Dahl, Janet and Allan Ahlberg, and Michael Rosen. Their stories and poems were funny and conjured some hilarious visual imagery in my 7-year old brain. I also remember loving the illustrations too and wanted to draw like Quentin Blake for most of my primary school days. That never happened.
Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here stuck in my mind because of the poem ‘Chocolate Cake’. Obviously. The poem is about the temptation of a home-made chocolate cake vs the will of a small child. When I first heard the poem (read by Mrs Scanlon in our mobile classroom), I’d yet to eat a proper chocolate cake (I know, mad!). The description of the chocolate cake was so detailed, I was almost able to almost taste it in my mind! Every chocolate cake that I’ve made since, I compare it to the tasting notes I learnt from that poem!
‘you know how the icing on top
is all shiny and it cracks as you
bite into it
and there’s the other type of icing in
and it sticks to your hands and you
can lick your fingers
and lick your lips
oh it’s lovely.
(extract from ‘Chocolate Cake’, Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here, Michael Rosen 1983)
In the poem, the child wakes up in the middle of the night thinking of his mum’s chocolate cake. He creeps downstairs with the intention of having ‘a little nibble’ and then things go a little bit wrong. Before he knows it, a few crumbs from around the plate become a slice to ‘tidy it up’. A slice becomes a wedge, a wedge becomes… the whole cake. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? The child, in order to try and cover up what he’d done, washes up the plate and puts it away hoping his mum wouldn’t notice. Genius! (Spoiler alert: she did notice). There is something about his perseverance in this poem that is truly admirable. As a child I was not able to imagine the idea of eating a whole cake (I had yet to discover good cake), but I was able to relate to the idea that something could be so delicious that you’d gobble it all up in one go. However, I don’t think I would ever have the guts to gaslight my mum into thinking the cake wasn’t there in the first place.
I am in no doubt that this poem helped stir my early obsession with baking and all things food related. To this day I am still on the hunt for The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe Ever and although I have come close, I haven’t eaten a chocolate cake that quite describes the one in this poem. The search continues…