Small Knight and George and the Royal Chocolate Cake

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Small Knight and George and the Royal Chocolate Cake by Ronda Armitage, Arthur RobinsA 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 peace-loving, friendly 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 buying 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

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Small Knight and George and the Royal Chocolate Cake
by Ronda Armitage & Arthur Robins

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Written by frangliz

I have a degree in Fine Art but never actually worked in that field. After almost two years in Paris, I moved to Cairo and spent many years there teaching English language and literature in schools. I came back to the UK in 1999 and now work with young children. I also tutor students of all ages in French, English or Maths. I enjoy writing reviews in my spare time; another hobby of mine is photography. I have two sons who are now grown up, both working in IT.

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