The centipede goes to the ball

laura's centipede2

Written by Linda Cracknell, illustrated by Laura Codona, aged 11, patient at Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh.
Inspired by James and the Giant Peach


In my beetroot-coloured boots
I could form a ballet troupe
or a Barndance – do-si-do,
Bolero duos – quick-quick-slow.
Please don’t come – the floor’s complete
with my hundred-odd sweet feet.
There’s only forty-two?
So what! Look what they can do:
Boogie-woogie, Bossa-Nova;
Breakdance or Bangra for the solos.
Bachata, Bump-and-Grind,
Boogalooing that’s divine.
I’m aiming for a personal best
to be the most girating pest
with heels that clickety-clack;
on my head my red Fez hat.
My Bellydance is quite a giggle
but awesomest? My Bigmarchwiggle.
Legs whirring briskly,
see me on Strictly!
Forty-two beautiful beetroot boot-feet
are going to the ball.


4_KirstenIrving_LavenderWritten by Kirsten Irving, illustrated by Charlie Sitt
Inspired by Matilda


History snags heroes in its spines. The tyrant-ticklers, the boldest of the jimminies. And every hero sees their comrade as ten times the hero; clanking with medals while they cobble together a mission. This is school, and a small girl can only do so much. Your overlord for this afternoon, and the seeming rest of your life, is your headteacher. She is a solid wall of loathing for you all; a pitiless, pebble-dashed municipal building. But, like every dictator, her habits will undo her.


In the daily glug of water,

the spring newt wrassles and calms.

Lavender pretends to write.

The Roly-Poly Bird goes on holiday with the Muggle-Wumps

Written by John Simmons, illustrated by Aimee Simmons
Inspired by The Twits

After the Twits got the shrinks, the Muggle-Wumps were happy to be free.

“Let’s celebrate,” they said to their bird friend who helped them escape from their cage. Monkeys don’t like being kept in cages any more than you would.

“We should go on holiday. How about France?”

“Oooo,” said Muggle-Wumps.

Ooo-la-la,” said the Roly-Poly Bird. “We should learn French – no good going and not knowing the language.”

He flew them on his back to Paris. They were enjoying  chocolat chaud and croissants in a café when they saw the sign: “See Paris from above. Best views from our chauderairee.”….


They went straightaway to buy tickets. “Quatre singes,” said the Roly-Poly Bird, hoping to get a reduced price for the four monkeys. The man in the ticket office just shrugged.

“My treat,” said the Roly-Poly Bird. They walked through the gate to where a scruffy-looking man was holding the rope attached to the balloon’s basket.

“Hop in,” the Roly-Poly Bird led the way. Soon they felt the basket move under their feet as the flames heated the air in the balloon. They started to lift off the ground. Looking down, the man holding the rope, with his beret pulled low over his head, looked strangely familiar. The Muggle-Wumps laughed: “Looks like Mr Twit!”

Up they soared. Paris was all around them down below. There was the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral. The Muggle-Wumps were having a high old time jumping around. The basket shook from side to side. They were going higher and higher, and the Roly-Poly Bird noticed that the man holding the rope had been lifted off the ground and was swinging below them. He did look familiar. It was Mr Twit – Mr Twit unshrunk.

Non, non, arrête!!” squawked the bird at the Muggle-Wumps, forgetting that they didn’t speak much French. They jumped and swung all the more, enjoying themselves. They didn’t realise that a flame from the chauderairee was now burning the rope that Mr Twit was holding on to.

The flame burnt through the rope and they all watched Mr Twit fall from the sky, landing with an enormous splash in the River Seine.

Au revoir, Mr Twit,” shouted the Roly-Poly Bird.

Adieu,” screamed the Muggle-Wumps as the chauderairee took them back across the channel towards England.


Read the feature story ‘Aimee and the Twits’

The Roly-Poly Bird goes on holiday with the Muggle-Wumps

rolypoly-lgWritten by John Simmons, illustrated by Aimee Simmons
Inspired by The Twits


After the Twits got the shrinks, the Muggle-Wumps were happy to be free.

“Let’s celebrate,” they said to their bird friend who helped them escape from their cage. Monkeys don’t like being kept in cages any more than you would.

“We should go on holiday. How about France?”

“Oooo,” said Muggle-Wumps.

Ooo-la-la,” said the Roly-Poly Bird. “We should learn French – no good going and not knowing the language.”

He flew them on his back to Paris. They were enjoying  chocolat chaud and croissants in a café when they saw the sign: “See Paris from above. Best views from our chauderairee.”….

Read more…


Read the feature story ‘Aimee and the Twits’


Aimee and the Twits

Written by John Simmons

In a house in north London lives a family who are nothing like the Twits. But it’s here that Aimee Simmons, aged 9, lives with her mum and dad and younger sister Ada. Aimee’s mum Mathilde is French so Aimee has learnt to speak two languages. She reads Roald Dahl books a lot and one of her favourites is The Twits.

Aimee is my granddaughter and some months ago I asked her if she would like to take part in a project called 26 Twits. She said Yes and we started thinking about which character we might feature in our new story. We agreed it should be a character from The Twits so I read it again. One character caught my attention – the Roly-Poly Bird who frees the Muggle-Wump family of monkeys. So we talked about this, in particular the part where Muggle-Wump asks the Roly-Poly Bird about speaking other languages in the countries he visits. “Of course I do,” said the Roly-Poly Bird. “It’s no good going to a country and not knowing the language.”

Aimee was about to go to France for a few weeks to stay with her French grandparents. Which is lucky for Aimee but also very clever because she can speak French perfectly. This gave us the idea for our story and our invented word for a hot-air balloon, a chauderairee. We wrote the story and Aimee took it away with her to France.

When she was away her parents (who are really not like the disgusting Mr and Mrs Twit) played a Twit-like April Fool’s joke. They said they had been repainting rooms. Aimee replied by email to her mum like this:

Is it a joke?

You and daddy painted my room DARK brown with PINK (I don’t really like the colour pink) sploodges and Ada’s room BLACK just black! Could you (if this whole thing isn’t a joke) make Ada’s room a bit more colourful.

Mathilde confessed that this was an April Fool, and Aimee replied:

So you mean you haven’t painted our rooms brown, pink and black at all!

You haven’t even painted one wall?! Gosh, you need to start doing some house work BOTH OF YOU, yes, that means you as well dad.


This seemed very much in the spirit of Roald Dahl, as were the illustrations that Aimee made to go with our story. She decided to do one as a comic strip because she loves Asterix. For a bit more inspiration we had a great day out with Aimee and Ada at the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, where you are surrounded by Roald Dahl characters and art materials to make your own creations.

In The Twits there’s a simple message that kindness can beat nastiness; and that we should look after people for their difference not despite that difference. We tried to put similar ideas into our story, hoping that children will grow up in a world that encourages the same.


A warning about books

Matilda_Riley-Dobson---Jo_TWritten by Jo Thomas, illustrated by Riley Dobson
Inspired by Matilda


Books put mush between your ears
They turn your brains to jelly
Ideas make little heads explode
You’d better stick with telly

Books spark phizzlejimbly spells
Transform you while you’re reading
Into a girl or boy or dog
Or dragon that needs feeding

Books can blast you into space
To far off lands and oceans deep
Best prepare for wild adventures
Wave goodbye to dreamless sleep

Books will get you hooked for life
Like nose-picking, a habit
You’ll catch the reading bug and say
“Now here’s my chance,” and grab it!

How we stretched our imaginations with Mike Teavee

Written by Jane Berney

Who to pick for 26 Twits? Mike Teavee was top of my list; I was interested in this mercurial  character because of his obsession with the screen, a topical issue for any of us who care about children.

At about the same time as this project started, SKY (the local TV provider) emailed out a promotional message to all subscribers. In bold purple lettering, they proclaimed, “School holidays are better with great TV.”  Crikey!

I had seen some of my neighbour (12-year-old) Meagan’s drawings when she’d scribbled away on visits with us. I adore her whimsical ways while she balances a life that includes karate and horses and being the head girl at Hunua School.  I didn’t want to make her life too much busier with this project, but she jumped up and down and said Yes at the same time.

Fuelled by hot chocolates, we plonked ourselves down at the dining room table and started exploring life post-Wonka. In the book (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Mike  is shrunk to fit into a TV, which, despite his distraught parents, he seems to be pretty chuffed about. In an attempt to correct the situation, Wonka decides to put the gun-toting kid through a stretching machine.  With rather extreme results.

Meagan says, “I looked at some photos from the movie, and read Mike Teavee’s part of the book, and I reckon all those video games have made him violent, and rude, and bored with life as he always has a blank look on his face. But why? I don’t have a clue.”

We wondered about his life with his parents:

“Hey Mum, can I…?”

“Not now Mikey, I’m busy.”

“Hey Dad, can we…”

“Aw Mikey, can’t you see I’m working?”

“Mum, Dad, what about…aww, forget it.”

And we could kind of see how he had turned to TV. But now, after the Wonka experience, his life is a different size. What would it be like if you’d been stretched? Meagan drew a picture of Mike and his family on a car ride. Mike is too big to fit inside the car, so he’s sitting on the roof. Mr Teavee is driving while Mrs Teavee is blushing.

The drawing that we chose shows the Teavee family standing together. Meagan has placed father Teavee standing within arm’s distance of Mike, but his mother is right in beside him. The only one who looks genuinely happy is Mike in his basketball gear, because, that’s right, basketball is his activity of choice now he’s too tall to get in front of a TV. And perhaps, just perhaps, it has shifted the dynamic of the family. In a good way.

We really like the way that he’s so stretched that even his gear is not quite fitting, but he’s all smiles.

Then, we thought, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was written when TV screens were the size of ovens and we’re imagining this in the 21st century; could we give Mike access to a device of the time?  This is the little twist at the end of it.

The first round was a rather podgy 114 words, however, with the gentle guidance of Jayne Workman, we reduced it to the requisite 100.

Now Meagan and I are trying to work out how to shrink her to fit into my suitcase to take to London this September.

Mike Teavee


Written by Jane Berney, illustrated by Meagan Fowler
Inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


Pistols, rifles, cannons
Ready, aim, fire!
Who needs a job
when you can be
a TV gun for hire?

Since Wonka stretched me to such lengths,
I’m further from the floor
So watching TV all day
is a pastime no more.

Blow me down,
I’m so tall
I’ve changed my slinging ways.
Instead of guns, I now shoot
hoops with style and grace.

My mother and my father
used to yell at me.
Now I tower above them
they see me differently.

is what they think I had.
I don’t know,
maybe I’d best go
check on my iPad.


Read the feature story ‘How we stretched our imaginations with Mike Teavee’

From Mean Low Wretch to Grand High Witch

jan-dekkerWritten by Jan Dekker, illustrated by Emily Dekker & Alice Dekker
Inspired by The Witches


Once I was who I used to be.

Kind, modest, demure, delightful. Amenable, accommodating. Pleasant, patient. So nice. So lovely. But so put-upon, so pliable. Servile, supine, simpering. Diffident, deferential. Base, bowing, scraping, quaking, flaky and kow-towing.

So, a sip of special grunchelpotion and…fizz-bubble, scubbletrouble… I became who I am.

My old self crrracklepackered to a cinder, and my new self in its place. Strong, certain, in control. In ze drrriving seat. Ven I say ‘jump’, zey jump out of their miserable skinz.

Zat’s better. So, so much better. I rrreccomend it. In fact, I rrrequire it.

Who’s viz me?

Mary, Mary

SAM_3048Written by Irene Lofthouse, illustrated by Leo Stanley Goy
Inspired by Mary in Rhyming Stew


I was gobsmacked when a reporter appeared from “Where Are They NOW?” to interview mum about gardens. We lived eight floors up surrounded by concrete paths, parking bays, high rises and scraps of yellowing grass.

“Go away!” Mum shouted from the open balcony door.

I could see tears trickle down mum’s face. I didn’t know why she was crying and went to hug her.

“You were famous! Our viewers want to…” the reporter’s loud voice floated up causing Mum to storm onto the balcony.

“Leave me alonnnnnne!” she cried, clambering on the balcony railings, sobbing and swaying.


He skedaddled, leaving me to talk mum down.

“It’s OK,” I said, hugging her, a tear dropping on my head as she stroked my hair. She revealed that when she was eight, my age, she’d grown a fantabulous garden with wondrous plants.

“Rodidodis rambuculated rampantly,” she said. “Spangalicious sprawled, spitting seeds at sunset. Silver Bells as tall as the Town Hall tower trembled and tinkled. Pretty Maids danced and dipped like ballerinas in the breeze. Cockle Shells croaked each full moon, cackling a cacophonous chorus. Tiger Lilies tangoed together, pouncing on slugs and savouring them. Spotted Snaglethorpe ladybirds leapt around.” Mum choked. “All gone! Destroyed when the council built the flats.”

She went to bed. It’s what she needed. Sparko in a moment. What she’d said explained a lot. Her change of mood from smiles to foot stamping. Contrary Mary, I’d heard at the school gates.

I loved her, wanted to make her happy. I had an idea. I ferreted in the box room for an old tin Gran had showed me.

It was full of paper seed packets Mum had collected. Gran had told me about “Guerilla Gardeners” and how they threw their “plant bombs”, onto bare patches of land to fill them with colour and life.

I became one. With Mum’s seeds and compost from the pound shop under my bed, I catapulted bombs from our balcony and “dropped” them to and from school.

Three months later, nothing. Soooo disappointing.

Mum’s birthday arrived, I left chocs and a card in her room. A squeal wakened me.

“Oh! What a Morning Glory!” Mum was on the balcony.

“You mean glorious morning,” I yawned.

“I know exactly what I mean,” she beamed, “rumboculating rodidodi, sparkling spangalicious . . .”

I ran to look.

Colour, scent, life entwined everything.