Roald Dahl under the lamp


roalddahlIn advance of Roald Dahl Day on the 13 September, the iconic children’s author has been under a fair bit of scrutiny in the press.   Let’s start with:

The Bad News

Revolting Rhymes was banned from Aldi in Australia last week for being well…revolting (Aldi removes ‘slut’ from store)

Interestingly, it’s not only Australian housewives who have found the rhymes in questionable taste.   Back when Revolting Rhymes was first in production it was Dahl’s long term illustrator, Quentin Blake who had reservations. In an interview with the Telegraph back in 2012 he confessed that 
“the only time I said anything was when we did Revolting Rhymes. I thought it was a bit too rude and I wrote and said, please remember that parents read these to their children. I thought he might object – but it was fine.” 

The more recent objections, made on Facebook, are a good example of social media wielding its increasingly heavy sword of influence, but is it entirely constructive?  At Book and Kitchen we find it hard not to associate banning books with dark authoritarian regimes. Whilst there is little disagreement that the word ‘slut’ is contentious (it’s meaning having shifted somewhat over time) the role of censor is not one that sits comfortably on booksellers shoulders.  Perhaps better to preserve the right to be offended and leave the consumer with the freedom to make an educated decision to buy or not to buy.

The Good News

On a positive note, there’s alot of buzz around the publication in the Guardian Review of a previously unseen chapter of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (The Vanilla Fudge Room),  which sees the demise of Wilbur Rice, a naughty boy who didn’t make the cut for the final book which turns 50 this year.  

The illustration for the chapter was provided by… Quentin Blake (there he is again!).  There can’t be many children (or adults) who haven’t come under the spell of the very fruitful Dahl-Blake marriage – terrorised by The Witches, indignant with The Twits  and heart warmed in the BFG – and that’s just scratching the surface.


Roald Dahl sadly passed away in 1990, but Quentin Blake, aged 81 shows no signs of slowing down. His latest project is the recently opened House of Illustration tucked away in a corner of the newly revived Granary Square development behind Kings Cross.

Book and Kitchen paid a visit last week to check it out.  It currently houses the “Inside Stories” exhibition which gives a unique insight into  Quentin Blake’s creative process.  Featuring a reproduction of his desk complete with pens and rough sketches, life size illustrations bounding around the walls and a tear jerker room devoted to the emotive creation of Michael Rosen’s Sad Book.  

As an added bonus it’s right next door to the new St. Martins College of Art campus complete with gratifyingly big voyeur windows allowing you to sneak a peek at aspiring fashion designers and fine art students in full creative swing.  Definitely worth a trip at the weekend.

Michael Rosen

Rosen, M./Blake, Q., 2004. Michael Rosen’s Sad Book. 2008 ed. Walker Books

To end, in anticipation of Book and Kitchen’s “The Picture book Maker” course starting in a couple of weeks, we’ll round off with some words from the maestro on illustration. “It’s like directing a play, except that you also get to design the scenery and play all the parts.” (Quentin Blake) – which sounds pretty awesome.