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A small knight and his even smaller pet dragon, George, live in an old castle. One day a letter arrives from the king, saying that he and the queen will be visiting and would like a party to be arranged. He particularly requests that Big Cook make her special chocolate cake.
Everyone begins to make preparations, with Small Knight and George distributing the invitations. Soon the chocolate cake is ready, and it is huge. However, the delicious smell wafting from it reaches the wild brigands in the dark woods. Indignant that they have not been invited to the party, they creep into the castle in the middle of the night and steal the cake.
Dad Knight orders Small Knight to go in search of the brigands and bring back the cake. Small Knight doesn't feel in the least bit brave, but his love of chocolate cake spurs him on. With George behind him on his horse, he sets off to the wild woods, singing a song. After a while he encounters the band of brigands who declare themselves to be very wild and very hungry. Small Knight bravely shouts at them to leave the cake alone. He cleverly tells them that if they behave, they can come to the party. His idea miraculously works, so that cake is taken back to the palace and the spruced up brigands are allowed at the party. When they have eaten their fill, everyone plays kick-a-ball.
'Small Knight and George and the Royal Chocolate Cake' starts off seeming rather traditional in many ways, but stands out because Small Knight achieved his aim not by fighting but by being friendly and generous towards the brigands. I was at pains to stress this concept to a group of four-year-old children and suggested that they might learn a thing or two from Small Knight's methods, but I think I was being over-optimistic. Perhaps the story needed to be read a few more times to drum the message home. Ronda Armitage is, nevertheless, to be commended for depicting such friendly, peace-loving characters.
There is slightly more text per page than some picture books, but the font is large and the background is always white for the story itself. The letter from the king appears on a pale yellow scroll in handwriting which is easy to read as it is not cursive. There are a few words and phrases that are set in a large font for emphasis, and coloured speech bubbles are interestingly used when Dad and Mum Knight and Big Cook are watching out for the brigands just before the party. The flavour of a medieval manuscript is suggested by a particularly large first letter decorated by George on many pages. Adults might appreciate this detail more than young children. The vocabulary is fairly straightforward, although understandably there seemed to be just one four-year-old boy in my group who knew what a portcullis was. This is definitely a story to be read aloud rather than a book for a child who is learning to read.
The illustrations for 'Small Knight and George and the Royal Chocolate Cake' are by Arthur Robins. They are full of humour and in a style that will appeal readily to young children. Apart from the first picture of the wild brigands hiding in the woods, they are all very bright and colourful. The fact that they are not my favourite picture-book illustrations is almost bound to be a good sign; I'm too old to appreciate what today's pre-school children are likely to enjoy most.
I am always on the lookout for picture books that can be used as a basis for a drama session, and 'Small Knight and George and the Royal Chocolate Cake' proved to be ideal. Most young children enjoy pretending to be wild brigands and eating chocolate cake at parties. It would probably work well even with quite a large group that need a lively activity.
This is a book that might appeal more to boys than to girls, but the fun illustrations and imaginative story should make it one worth at least borrowing from the library to read to any young child. I particularly liked Ronda Armitage's idea of inviting the brigands to the party rather than fighting against them, so I would recommend adding it to any children's library on that basis alone.
Small Knight and George and the Royal Chocolate Cake
Ronda Armitage (author), Arthur Robins (illustrator)
Paperback, 32 pages
Orchard Books, 2009
Price £5.99 (Amazon £4.19)
Also posted on other sites.
Our 5 year old son likes this book. My wife likes this book. But I love it! I think it's a brilliantly written book, and is the sequel to Small Knight and George, where our budding young knight is sent forth to find and fight a dragon. For that's what brave knights do! Small Knight finds and befriends George, a small dragon who ends up coming back to the castle with him and living there.
In this next book, the King and Queen are coming to stay, and they have sent a letter specifically asking cook to bake a huge chocolate cake. Howeve, while they're all sleeping, the wild brigands who live in the woods have come and stolen the cake. Small Knight and George are sent to find those brigands and rescue that cake.
Ronda Armitage is a wonderful children's author. I remember her classic, The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch, from when I was a kid, and we still read it to our son. However, he prefers this book, and it's a very entertaining tale of adventure. Small Knight takes us through the woods, and I like doing the different voices for the different characters. I elaborate a bit when they come across a deer in the woods, mimicking the voice of the deer and putting in some more words.
Ultimately, as with nearly all kids' books, there's a bit of a sensible moral to the silly tale. The animation ensures that the silliness and unrealistic nature of it all stays exactly where it belongs: on the pages. However, the moral itself is one to do with reputation. The wild brigands have developed a bit of a rep, and when Small Knight and George encounter them, a completely different story emerges. I won't spoil it for you, you'll have to get it to find out, but it is a wonderful story to tell your kids. There's even a bit of a mini song to sing to them, although you'll have to make up your own tune as there's no clue as to how it's supposed to sound. I often change it.
The copy we have is a hardback one, and it was given to us as a present for William. The paperback is currently available from amazon.co.uk for £3.98. It's a bargain price really for a lovely book that you can read over and over again to your kids, and they'll love it. The illustrations are quite child friendly, with the subtleties being quite clever, and the colours vibrant enough without being over the top. Overall, it's a lovely book, wonderful tale and good illustrations. A highly recommended book.
Unsurprisingly, it was the gorgeous looking cover showing an enormous chocolate cake which attracted my two and a half year old son to this book! He started saying 'choccy cake book please Mummy' so I knew that I would have to review it for the Bookbag! It arrived yesterday and he eagerly grabbed it from me and asked me to read it to him.
The story tells the tale of Small Knight and his dragon George who live in the castle with Mummy and Daddy Knight. The King and Queen are coming for a party and ask for their favourite cake to be made by Big Cook. But the party is put into jeopardy when the enormous cake is stolen by the Brigands, wild and messy little people who live in the forest. It falls to Small Knight and George to venture into the forest and return the cake before the Queen and King realise it's missing.
As I mentioned, the cover is what really grabbed my son's attention and I'm not at all surprised that it did! The picture is gloriously colourful and attention-grabbing, on a vivid yellow background, you wouldn't be able to ignore this book on the shelf! It's a nice large hardback so easy for younger toddlers to help with reading and turning the pages. I hoped that the lovely illustrations on the front cover would continue throughout the book, and I was thrilled to see that they did.
As soon as we began the story, my son was absolutely mesmerised. Each page was filled to the brim with colourful, fantastically drawn pictures which tell the story perfectly. The book is set in a medieval period, which means Knights in traditional metal armour, old castles and people in old-fashioned robes. The pictures are full of colour, and it was this that made them so eye-catching and such a great addition to the book. The illustrations fill whole pages, curve around the text and even fit between the lines - the book is stuffed with pictures, great for young children who love looking at them whilst they listen to the story.
The story itself was fun to read and easy to follow for young children too. The text is a generous size, so that children learning to read will be able to help mum and dad read along, using fairly basic language, although there were a few hard words in there which were a bit too complicated for young children. However, this is also a positive thing because it will encourage children to question their parents about the words and this can open up conversation about the word and the historical period in which the book is set.
The story is like an adventure, and I know my son was absolutely hooked from the first page. It has a nice rhythm to it with a few rhymes dotted throughout too. There were even a couple of songs, to which I made up my own tune which made my son laugh, and I think this is a good idea as your child can join in with you when you sing the song to no particular tune! The characters were all basic but enjoyable, with the littlest person of the bunch saving the day at the end, helping children to realise little people can make a difference! There are some good morals in the book as well, involving the messy and wild people who live in the forest. They have no manners and are barred from the party, but when they are polite, clean and well-dressed they are allowed to meet the King and Queen and allowed to share the cake. This is good for encouraging children's manners and tidyness without them realising it!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and my son was a completely rapt audience, requesting that I read it over and over again, and he's had it as his bedtime story two nights on the trot which is unheard of! He loves pointing out the cake when it appears in the book. The characters are all so sweet, the illustrations are beautiful and this is just a fantastic children's book I'd thoroughly recommend, and one which I really enjoy reading aloud too!
ISBN: 978-1846169120. Published by Orchard in July 2008. Available in hardback on Amazon for £7.14
Thank you for reading!