Sunday, 31 August 2014

Dahl's Chocolate Delight

A Quentin Blake illustration of
Charlie and Willy Wonka

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is 50! Do you know how old that makes me feel? It wasn't even written when I was a child, but my own daughters loved it when they were small, and Roald Dahl's classic tale is as popular with children (and adults) as it's ever been. You can celebrate by reading (or re-reading) the book - and, of course, you can eat as much chocolate a you like!!! 

We have lots of fairly traded choccies, and we usually have a copy of the book in the Children's Corner of our Market Street Bookshop, with additional volumes in the storeroom, but you have to be quick to bag one, because they are snapped up as soon as we receive them. 

As far as the book goes, it was first published in America in 1964, and appeared in Britain three years later. At the time it was unlike most other children’s literature because it’s really quite dark - I’ve always thought it has more in common with Struwwelpeter, a 19th century classic where awful things happen to children who don't do as they’re told.  
Struwwelpeter - known in English as Straw Headed Peter.
I’m sure everyone knows the plot, but just in case you’ve missed it, young Charlie Bucket finds a Golden Ticket which enables him and Grandpa Joe to visit the fabulous chocolate factory owned by Willy Wonka, ‘the most amazing, the most fantastic, the most extraordinary chocolate maker the world has ever seen’. But the visit is a test, because Willy Wonka is looking for someone to run the factory after him, and one by one the children who don’t follow his advice disappear, never to be seen again… 

And a lost chapter, which has just appeared in Saturday's Guardian Review, with new illustrations by the inimitable Quentin Blake, was deemed unsuitable for children and was never included in the book! 

See what I mean about dark? 
Author Roald Dahl
But there’s a lot of fun and laughter and, as Dahl has Willy Wonka say: “A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.” A lot of the nonsense has to do with the magical, sugary, chocolaty confections that are created in the factory, from Exploding Sweets for your enemies, to Invisible Chocolate Bars for eating in class. JK Rowling has cited Dahl as one of her influences, and you can see how the sweet delights in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory might have inspired the Every Flavour Beans and Fizzing Whizzbees found in the Harry Potter books. 

There are even instructions for making some of these chocalicious goodies in
Roald Dahl's Completely Revolting Recipes (which includes two earlier cookbooks). Sadly, we don’t often see the cookbooks in our Bookshop - I guess they are too well used too donate to Oxfam! 

But we do have lots of other cookbooks for you to browse if you want to try your hand at baking choccy sweets and cakes. In addition, we’ve got a selection of Divine chocolate which can be used for cooking, or eaten just as it is! I am assured it is exceedingly nice, but unfortunately I can’t vouch for this myself, as chocolate gives me migraine.

Divine is the only Fairtrade chocolate company which is 45 per cent owned by cocoa farmers, ensuring they receive a better deal for their cocoa, as well as additional income to invest in their community. Ownership gives farmers a share of company profits and a stronger voice in the cocoa industry. 
Yummy Divine chocolate.

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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Travelling Van!

Have books, will travel... Not sure where this came from (it seems to be doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter) but it is such a wonderful idea. If we had a van like that for the Bookshop we could go mobile and take books out to the world!! Wouldn’t that be great?! 
I wonder if the vehicle is purely for storing books, or whether you can actually live in it, like a camper van. Actually, it reminds me of Christopher Morley’s Parnassus on Wheels, a brilliant novel about a travelling bookshop which is long overdue for a reprint (it was published in 1917, and I've never seen a copy in our shop, which is a shame). However, electronic versions are available at Project Gutenburg. 

And although we lack suitable transport to provide a mobile service, you can still visit our Bookshop, which is packed with all kinds of books, so do come and browse.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Bathtime Reading

OK, I admit that here at Oxfam Lichfield most of us are quackers about books (especially if we volunteer in the Bookshop), but we don't all read in the bath! There are those who think it spoils a book, because the pages get soggy and they go crinkly and wrinkly as they dry out, but I can live with that! 

I'm not even sure if there are perfect books to read in the bath - I just grab whatever I happen to be reading at the time, but I suppose one could try and find books with a bathtime theme... Jill Murphy's children's classic, Five Minutes Peace springs to mind. Has anyone got any other ideas? 

And before anyone says anything, yes, I do feel guilty about being able to soak in the bath with a good book when so many people in the world don't even have clean water for drinking and cooking, let alone keeping clean.  

Anyway, if you want a good book to read in the bath, we have plenty of choice in our Bookshop (32 Market Street). And if you want to help Oxfam provide clean water for communities, you can make a donation at either of our shops. We're always immensely grateful to customers who put money in our box on the counter, and the small change adds up very quickly. Thanks to these contributions, over the last couple of years we've been able to send cash to disaster funds in the Philippines, Sudan, and Gaza - and the provision of safe, clean water is a vital part of Oxfam's work in all three places.  

If you're willing to give more, you could buy a gift through the Oxfam Unwrapped scheme, where all the money goes directly to a specific project. For example, £10 provides fresh water for 10 people, while £22 fixes a well. Staff and volunteers in both our shops can expain the scheme, and full details are available on the main Oxfam GB website at

By the way, should you wonder, the duck with a book is from the British Library, and I couldn't resist it. I just wish Oxfam would make something like this to sell in the bookshops - I'm sure they would be popular!