Monday, 26 March 2012

Owl Babies

The Edible Book Festival has come to a close and the winners have been announced and....and...!

I didn't win. ah tarnation. ;)

It was a pretty much impossible task given the quality of the entries; all of the 74 were in with a shout frankly. The first prize went to an incredibly detailed and beautifully crafted version of Emily Gravett's 'The Odd Egg' with definite wow factor. Congratulations to all the prize winners; 'good bake' as Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would say.

'Owl Babies' by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Patrick Benson  has always been a favourite in this house. Firstly owls are amongst my favourite and my best; who doesn't love an owl? This, extremely large in the stoneware flesh, one was always my first choice exhibit on regular childhood visits to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

And then one of the main characters in 'Owl Babies' is called Bill and, as we know from my last post, namesakes are always a good shortcut to garner popularity.

But 'Owl Babies' doesn't need any gimmicks to make it a lovely read...and probably doesn't need any introductions from me to you either. It's a quiet classic that has almost certainly found its way into your home already. A proper snuggle-down-and-listen bedtime story to soothe separation anxiety and give a great excuse for some extra mum cuddles.

Three baby owls wait for their mother to return from her night's hunting in a dark wood. As their bravado wanes and the wait seems longer, they huddle together for comfort. Sibling dynamics are beautifully observed from big sister superiority to little brother vulnerability but ultimately the family are united against whatever might  lurk in the darkness.
Mother owl returns; "and she came!", tension dissipates and cosy order is reinstated. The very gentlest of first scare stories for the under fives.

I decided to attempt the cover for the edible book festival partly on the basis that I couldn't find any intimidating versions of it online already and partly because I had a sudden inspiration that I could make them out of cupcakes. This had the advantage of not requiring to much engineering on my part and also we had a school cake sale coming that afternoon so I figured I could just sprinkle them with smarties and sell them anyway if it all went horribly wrong.

It turned out to be fun! My plan to use the orangey bit inside a jaffa cake to make the beaks didn't quite work out as planned but otherwise industrial quantites of buttercream icing hid a multitude of sins. I was particularly proud that the owls genuinely looked a bit scared when I had finished.

As well they might. Taking them to the school cake sale to be torn apart in a flurry of feathers by a hundred grabbing hands made me feel a bit queasy; enough to turn one into a vegecakeatarian.: 'Owl Babies- Version X Rated- When The Mother Didn't Come'...
The original
The cake tribute

'Owl Babies' by Martin Waddell, illus. Patrick Benson, pub. Walker isbn  978-0744531671


  1. I personally LOVED your entry and wished I could have bought it at the cake sale after you made it!

    1. Thank you- and thanks for hosting such a fun and original festival. We really enjoyed it! I'm particularly full of admiration for those whose children took charge of the planning/baking/construction. How about a prize dedicated for the under 12's next year?

  2. Hi Polly, I blog over at Pen Pals and Picture Books with Robyn. I thought your entry was very cute! It's always nice to find another book blogger-- love the note on the side bar about songs about poo, so true (and I have girls singing those songs here, so unlady-like!)

  3. (truth to tell I used to do a good line in poo songs before I had to be the Grown Up. One can have too much of a good thing...)

  4. Hey, Whitney came over here first! She's my blog gal-pal :) I'm just delighted to meet the creator of the adorable owl babies cakes! They do look a bit frightened- wonderful! so funny about them being torn apart in the bake sale- yikes. They do look delicious though...

  5. My girls and I are big fans of Owl Babies (we also have a namesake in the family - Sarah!) so I loved your cake tribute and thought it was very impressive! I don't think I could bring myself to destroy such a fab creation but the fact it has loads of buttercream icing would probably tempt me!

    1. I averted my eyes and didn't touch any myself- that would have been cannibalism ;)

  6. Love Owl Babies - my daughers enjoyed this when they were babes - so it clearly has a timeless quality about it! Hilary