Bubbles, bees and Blake

Written by Stephen Barnaby

Quentin Blake is, of course, a hard act to follow, so no grown adult would bother trying. Here’s where the idea of getting children to illustrate the 26 Twits stories is a stroke of genius. Children aren’t bothered by reputations. No self-respecting child would have any problem with stomping up to Turner, Picasso or Titian and telling them they were rubbish.

Which partially explains why, excited though I was by the idea of a child illustrating my piece, there was no way I was going to entertain the accompanying suggestion: getting involved in some kind of school project. The very words fill me with horror. I just about know how to talk to my own children, but I haven’t the first idea what to say to anyone else’s. That’s the kind of thing best left to people with baffling qualities such as boundless enthusiasm, perpetual energy and basic communicative abilities. Which may not necessarily describe the primary school teachers of my childhood but, by and large, seems to now.

So, I thought I’d stick with what I know, safely within my comfort zone. Not terribly heroic, but history is full of battered heroes.

Consequently, I turned to my younger daughter Polly, who can usually be trusted to rustle up something artistic and a tad off the beaten track. This is generally while turning the house into a complete bomb site and getting twice as many artistic materials on herself as on the paper..

What’s more, the theme of flatulence, I thought, would be right up her street: it’s one in which she takes an intense and, erm, personal interest.

So Polly went off to her room and all fell silent. This is when my partner and I start to worry.  It usually means the house is undergoing a spot of unscheduled redecoration, if not structural alteration.

It transpired, though, she actually had been hard at work – well, she’s always hard at work, just not necessarily at the things we had in mind. The resulting opus was inimitably Polly. Or perhaps not. Maybe everyone imagines the world like this: why wouldn’t a gathering of contemporary world leaders feature Winston Churchill, David Cameron holding a balloon emblazoned with the legend ‘DC PM’ and bees randomly flying about (including one in the BFG’s ear)?

All in all, I think Polly’s picture does this lovely project justice. It admirably captures her own effervescence and that of Dahl’s legendary beverage, not to mention, in a very literal sense, that of those who imbibe it.

I think Quentin Blake would approve, although whether he’d tell Polly I’m not sure: I once saw a film of him talking to a small girl about illustration and was amazed that someone with such an incredible ability to depict life from a child’s perspective, with all of its gleefully exuberant naivety, appeared to have no actual natural rapport with children whatsoever. Indeed, when the doyen of children’s illustration was confronted with an actual child, he seemed intensely uncomfortable.

Which I find oddly heartwarming.

Perhaps there’s hope for me yet.

Dahl workshop account

Written by Olly Davy

Make it kinaesthetic, my teacher pals advised. But advice based on a word you don’t understand is not the most helpful kind. Of course, I murmured, reaching for the dictionary.

I’d already spent an hour with my very own Quentin Blake, my friend’s delightful daughter, Rosa, bouncing around mad theories about the Enormous Crocodile’s motivations for eating children and discussing the heroics of the jungle creatures who foiled his schemes. The session was guided by the focus of my response to Dahl’s book: the belligerent beast’s final, fatal journey to the sun. Now it was time for the (self-inflicted) workshop at Rosa’s school – 26 (how apt) five-year-olds and me. Oh dear.

My nerves were calmed by the charming Miss Hutchinson at Halley House School in Hackney. She glided around the class arranging things for the afternoon while I gawped at the alien yet ever-so-familiar surroundings. I realised it had probably been a quarter of a century since I’d been in a room like it. Not that much has changed. The large interactive whiteboard dominating the front of the class is the most obvious addition.

“Thing is,” I explained to the unflappable Miss Hutchinson, “I’ve never done anything like this before and I’m worried they might, I don’t know, pick up on that…figure me out somehow.”

“They’re five,” she responded, somehow managing not to sound like she was talking to a simpleton. “Get their imaginations fired up and you won’t have any problems.”

The little people arrived, filing in wearing Roald Dahl-inspired fancy dress. There were several Charlie Buckets, a wicked witch, a Fantastic Mr Fox and some looser interpretations of characters that I couldn’t pin down. And there was Rosa, poorly that day but valiantly present and sporting a homemade Willy Wonka hat.

After a rousing welcome, I flicked through some illustrations from the book, gauging their interest in the story, which had been read to them the previous day.

“Can anyone think of other words that mean ‘enormous’?” I asked, tentatively.

Hands shot up and the kids lobbed me an audio thesaurus.




As arranged, I then left the class, claiming I’d forgotten something, before creeping back in wearing a wolf onesie (the closest I could find to a crocodile). I paused at the door. Their backs were to me. I gave a fearsome roar. They turned as one.

“I’m going to find some delicious children to eat for my lunch!”

They screamed. I crept through the class, pretending not to have seen them. What next, I thought to myself, not knowing how this was going to develop or conclude. I suddenly ‘noticed’ the throng of children and let out a shriek of my own:

“So many! I can’t possibly eat them all.”

I made for a giant cardboard Wonka bar, snatched it up and fled the room.

“Sorry about that.” I offered on my return. “I heard a strange noise. What was it?”

“IT WAS A WOLF AND IT WAS YOU!” came the unanimous declaration.

“What? A wolf? Goodness. Let’s hope he doesn’t come back.”

The wicked witch was weeping, shocked by the dramatic episode. Miss Hutchinson offered consolation as tears rolled down the witch’s green-painted cheeks. Does making children cry count as engagement?

The next hour was a journey through illustration and ideas – encouraging, questioning, praising. I marvelled at the children’s boundless imaginations. I thought of Ken Robinson’s compelling argument that “schools kill creativity” and wondered how something so effervescent could be quashed, especially with talented enablers like Miss Hutchinson at the helm.

The children rotated between the desks where they worked with me, and other creative activities. The building sets were a particular favourite with the boys who came to show me their efforts.

Boy One: “It’s Optimus Prime.”

Boy Two: “I love Optimus Prime.”

Boy Three (to me): “You should marry Optimus Prime.”

—sniggers all round—

Me: “Um, I don’t really want to marry a robot.”

Boy One (in revelatory tone): “You could marry a girl robot!”

I closed the workshop with a final frolic in the wolf outfit. No one cried this time but the class did reach manic levels of excitement as they turned on the child-eating transgressor. I was practically lynched and dashed away howling to avoid a forest of clawing hands.

The workshop was a rewarding and exhausting experience. I now have even greater respect for those who run classrooms day in, day out, not just for a couple of hours. It was thrilling to share the delights of Dahl with the next generation and my own imagination was nourished by the fearlessness of theirs.

Huge thanks to Halley House School, and Miss Hutchinson in particular, for making the workshop possible.

Writing about the BFG

Written by Mavis Gulliver

What I love best about Roald Dahl is the way he played with words.  His Big Friendly Giant speaks in a delightful mix of made-up muddled-up words and it was an absolute joy for me to do the same.

When I write a story, I imagine that I am one of the characters. I find it easier to write if I imagine myself walking in my character’s shoes, seeing the things they see and speaking the way they speak. So I turned myself into a grandmother, and called my story ‘Grandmamma and the BFG.’

At first, I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I read the book again and was reminded that the BFG had a dream. His dearest wish was “to ride a jumbly big elefunt through green forests picking peachy fruits off trees”.

I knew this was impossible because the BFG riding an elephant is about as ridiculous as you trying to ride a chicken. But the BFG wanted an elefunt and I was determined to let him have one.

From that single idea my story grew. As soon as it was written I read it to a group of children at Port Ellen Primary School. This is a small school on the Isle of Islay off the west coast of Scotland. It is so small that nine, 10 and 11-year-olds all share a class with their teacher, Miss Clark. I already knew the class because I’ve done workshops about my own books and the children have written stories about my characters.

On this visit, I read my story and asked them to illustrate it. There were enormous BFGs – even a Scottish one in a tartan kilt. There were elephants galore, all of them better than any I could draw, and there was at least one grandmamma that looked like me.

Port Ellen pupils with their illustrations.

There were lots of good pictures but Bronagh Newman’s stood out from all the rest because it wasn’t just a picture. It was an illustration of my story and she hadn’t missed anything out. Her BFG was very BIG – so BIG that he could dangle the elephant from his little finger. His lovely smile and twinkly eyes made him look really FRIENDLY. Grandmamma was waving from her bedroom window and there were hundreds of golden phizzwizards behind her. Lastly, a full moon in a dark sky showed that the story was happening at night.

Bronagh Newman with the chosen illustration.

Bronagh, my young artist, had her eleventh birthday in February. Our island is a quiet place and we have to make our own entertainment. Bronagh keeps herself busy with reading, writing and drawing. She plays bagpipes and flute and goes for long family walks with her sister and their three dogs. She loves going to farms when her mum, who is a vet, has to treat sheep, cows and other animals. And she enjoys helping her dad when he’s building boats and taking visitors on fishing trips.

In September, Bronagh and some of her classmates will move to Islay High School so I hope to celebrate the Roald Dahl Centenary twice. I will return to Port Ellen School to display the paintings and to tell the younger children about our favourite Roald Dahl characters. And I plan to take my story and Bronagh’s illustration to Islay High School.

Roald Dahl has entertained us, inspired us and made us love reading even more than we did before. He deserves a most humungous ginormous bat on the pack.

Three cheers for Roald Dahl – Rip rip roohay – Rip rip roohay – Rip rip roohay.




Written by Mandy Lee

When I heard that 26 would be joining in the centenary celebrations of Roald Dahl’s life with a new project, 26 Twits, I knew I wanted to be involved. As a life-long member of the Dahl fan club, I’ve enjoyed his stories for what seems like forever.

I was delighted to be given my chosen character of Slugworth, Willy Wonka’s enemy from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. So, first things first, I re-read the book, then re-watched the film adaptations. In both films, Slugworth is given more invented story than in the original book. I decided I wanted to work from something that Dahl had created, rather than subsequent interpretations. Using only the book proved more challenging than I expected as he’s only mentioned a couple of times; no physical description. But what shone through, for me, was the man’s determination to succeed (even if it required stealing ideas) and his envy of Wonka’s success. These were my starting points, and I knew I wanted my 100 words to be suitable for children, and (hopefully) fun.

In the end, “my” Slugworth is in rhyming poem form, which seems to fit as a Dahl piece, and the man emerged as an egotistical, somewhat deluded character who is rampantly jealous of Wonka. He feels hampered by people’s perceptions of him and his “sluggy” name, and can’t understand why his own disgusting recipes aren’t as successful as those of his nemesis. My made-up word, “slurraping” came quite easily as I wanted something to represent the sly, sneaky way other people perceive him.

26 also wanted us to link up with a child, or children, to illustrate our 100 words. I was lucky enough that Aberlady Primary School in East Lothian agreed to work with me, and despite not being an experienced workshop leader, was warmly welcomed into the school and given lots of support by the staff. Primary 4 and 5 proved really enthusiastic collaborators with lots of ideas, inventive creations, and a few complicated questions (there really isn’t a reason why Slugworth has to have eyes, can’t have robot hands, or wouldn’t have an insect’s body…), resulting in a magnificent 45 illustrations to choose from! It was a tough decision selecting just one, but I eventually chose a drawing by Oscar Mackenzie (from Primary 4) that best suited my take on Slugworth (I loved his sluggy body and movie-villain moustache).

This is the first 26 project I’ve undertaken where inspiration had to come from another author’s words, which was challenging and, to be honest, a little intimidating. It really pushed me out of my comfort zone. That, along with the (unexpectedly) creative burst that came from working with enthusiastic children, made for a really delumptious project!

Many thanks to Head Teacher, Mrs Currie, and all of the teachers and children at Aberlady Primary School. And thanks to Mr Dahl for inspiring me as a writer, and continuing to inspire generations of children in all kinds of different ways.

aberladyprimary_250716_collage1 aberladyprimary_250716_collage2

Absolutely phizz-whizzing illustrations of Slugworth, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Aberlady Primary School’s P4 and P5 classes.

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.


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.

Mr Fox, meet Millie and me

Written by Andy Hayes


Truth is, I don’t like foxes.

They drop their mess on my front door step. Spray their scent to drive the local mutts crazy. And stare sullenly at me, sloping off insolently as I try to shoo them away.

Dahl’s Mr Fox was confident and triumphant. But he was also arrogant and I wanted to take him down a peg or two.

Millie was keen to draw him, as long as she received payment upfront. We agreed on a Hershey Bar. She ate it, did nothing, and then blamed me for not giving her a hard copy of my story to work from. I’ve never quite mastered the printer at home.

I started to hound her. It was half-term and she had time. Then one day, she put her mind to it and got the job done. It was good, but not quite right.

Mr Fox looked like a fox, but he was a bit too smart. He looked sad, but wasn’t fat. He was eating a burger not fried chicken. And, to cap it all, he still had a tail.

I rejected her first attempt.

Millie wasn’t happy. She’d researched foxes on Google images, and they all had tails. The drawing had taken her one whole hour, and she felt that this in itself was beyond the call of duty.

I focused on what she’d done well, and gave her a couple of tips. Read my story again. And even better, read Dahl’s too. But Millie’s not a reader. Not like the rest of my family. She prefers YouTube and Netflix so hasn’t got time for books.

I got specific with my feedback. I was too prescriptive. I was taking it far too seriously. Truth is, I’d grown attached to my Mr Fox. I was only trying to help. But I should’ve let her do it her way.

I bribed her with another Hershey Bar and this time she cracked it. Mr Fox the second was fatter and didn’t have a tail. His once-smart clothes had become shabby. I liked the fact that the chicken drumstick he was holding could’ve been a glass of bubbly.

How the mighty have fallen. Sorry Mr Fox.


The Queen does a great big whizzpopper

Written by Amna Boheim

I was a bit Last Minute Dot Com to this 26 project. Not to say I hadn’t been thinking about it. I had. A lot. The thing I struggled with most, was that The BFG is one of Roald Dahl’s greatest stories. How could I begin to emulate either the BFG or little Sophie? I spent many a sleepless night thinking about how to write a 100-word ditty which would capture the essence of the BFG.

Then, at 4.23a.m., on Friday 7th May, I had a brainwave. The Queen, I thought. The flipping Queen!! An idea fermented like Frobscottle in my head. And then I had another idea, and then another. Frobscottle! Whizzpoppers! The Queen! Her 90th birthday! Such was my excitement that I woke up my better half to tell him I had my 26 Twits idea.

“You’re a twit for waking me up,” he said. “Go back to sleep.” But I couldn’t sleep. I had to get it down on paper.

Next up, I needed an illustration (or two.) Thankfully, my friend’s son and budding artist, six-year-old Alexander Kivinen came to the rescue with a wonderful portrayal of the BFG. Then my five-year-old daughter, Lara, offered to contribute too. But, there were a few caveats she needed to draw my attention to.

“Mama,” she said. “I can’t draw the Queen. I can only do a girl.”

“That’s fine,” I said.

“But the Queen wears a crown.”


“Not sometimes. She wears a crown. All. The. Time. And I can’t draw crowns.”

“Well, just draw whatever you feel like.”

“And I can’t draw her flying.”

Me, losing the will: “That’s fine too.”

“Can I do a pond?”

“Why do you want to draw a pond?”

“Because I know how to draw a pond. And rocks too.”

“Okay,” I said, teeth now gritted. “Just draw anything. Anything you like.”

So that’s what she did. She drew a girl-queen. Zooming over a pond with a giant purple flower next to it. You never know, the Queen may well have a pond in her ballroom with a giant flower to boot. And, if you read my little piece, you’ll see that at the end, the Queen probably felt like a young girl all over again.


The Cementa-gum Blandy-grippers get the Grown-ups

Written by Amanda Edmiston, illustrated by Allannah Edmiston
Inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


I admit leaning towards organic, home-knitted yoghurt (well I own the kit if the urge strikes. ) However now my nine year old: Allannah and I are entering the sticky world of Violet Beauregarde, it would be an act of parental malevolence not to embrace confectionary. Wouldn’t it?

Especially now I’ve found actual chewing-gum meals.


 ‘…a small rectangular brick with a cloying fragrance. A top-note reminiscent of air-freshener.’


We test a flotilla of flavours and I instruct the poor girl to engage in a mindful chewing-gum analysis in the name of research… Drool-deflecting descriptions commence:


Nice, but weird…chemical death but more-ish’

‘Muuuu-uuuumaaaargh…it doesn’t blow bubbles, I don’t think this one works’


I hadn’t contemplated having to teach the art of bubble-blowing. Allannah’s face took on a Verruccaesque rigidity, her jaw set, lacking the required elasticity for successful gum-cracking. The arts I’d honed during geography in S2 flooded back. I could still stretch gum like a 13 year old.but the fun wore off quicker, the constant motion was tedious.


The bubbatrocity began: it gobbosmattered, it tunglebuckafunked; it wasn’t pleasant.


How much had my sweety-chomping childhood impacted on the choices I make for my children, I wondered.I pondered what would it be like being the child of one of Roald Dahl’s characters. Is Charlie Bucket Jr being overindulged by a once deprived dad? Surely not. However I bet Verrucca Salt’s kids don’t get taken to feed squirrels in the park… And what about Violet?


The gobstopper of an idea started rolling and Allannah loved it. The pens were out and she was off raiding her step-dad’s footwear collection for reference. She began to draw.

With my professional Illustrator on a roll, I decided to quiz her for posterity and insight into an artist,but observed I should wait ‘til the drawing was finished., So I sat double checking Dahl’s original works as oppose to the changes made for the films that have dislodged things in our memories.She waves a hilarious drawing… now for questions, I adopt my interviewer voice.


‘If you had a horrible habit what would it be?’

‘I’d flood the house so I could go swimming’


‘Do you actually have any horrible habits?’

‘No…please mum …I don’t want to be embarrassed on the website…’


‘What about the writer you worked with did they have any horrible habits?

The whole family decides to join in comparing my horrible habits. As it’s unfair to inflict such atrocities on the world I try a less controversial tack.


‘If you were to invent a new flavour of chewing-gum what would it be?’

‘Fizzy lemon-meringue with extra goo’


‘Who influences you as an illustrator:’

‘Lauren Child, Quentin Blake, Chris Riddle,’


‘What’s the last book you read?’

‘Sophie’s world’, ‘Matilda’, ‘Artichoke Hearts’ and ‘Ridiculous Rhymes’ because it makes my little sister laugh…I’ve got about 5 other books on the go, they’re lurking under my duvet…do you want me to go and look…there’s a salamander I need to find anyway…’


She’s off…it’s been hugonomically-funtabulous…so I decide to continue and add another layer…I phone her head-teacher and start dreaming-up a workshop for a whole class of doodling Dahl fans…

You can find out all about that at their very own expandibandysplendiliscious mini-website:



Loucas and Ross Allannah

Charlie C and Murray 1 IMG_5947


Harry and the mystery of the chocolate palace

Written by Jayne Workman

Harry’s just learnt how to do mind maps at school. He loves them. So that’s how we started our journey to India with Prince Pondicherry.

“Who?” you might ask. Prince Pondicherry is a small confection, just 36 lines in chapter three of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. At least in our edition. So you could be forgiven if you weren’t aware of this colourful but scantily featured player in the famous story. His is the ultimate cameo.

Introduced by Grandma Josephine in promising terms: “Tell Charlie about that crazy Indian prince,” she says to Grandpa Joe, he makes quite an entrance. “Completely dotty!” follows Grandpa George. “But very rich,” adds Grandma Georgina. We were with Charlie. We had to know more.

At this stage in the book, Prince Pondicherry is just another fabulous Wonka anecdote related by Charlie’s bedridden grandparents to entertain him — marshmallows that taste of violets, rich caramels that change colour every ten seconds and spotty blue birds’ eggs that you suck until you have nothing but a tiny pink sugary bird sitting on the tip of your tongue. And Prince Pondicherry’s up there with his request for a chocolate palace to live in.

So why did we choose him? I like to think it wasn’t me steering the ship. It’s a coincidence that his character gave us the opportunity to explore two of my favourite places in the world – France and India. On reflection, I think that could be unkind. Since leaving England for New Zealand five years ago, Europe has taken on the romance, for a 10-year-old boy, of any faraway place steeped in culture and history, with real live football matches to add to their appeal. And India? Well, I do bore him occasionally with my travel stories…

Once decided, we were back to the mind map, every bubbled idea an excuse for screen-based research for my junior artist. Our mapping led us across the continents to Pondicherry on the south-east coast of India. We soon discovered its French colonial history and its independence just a decade before Dahl’s book was published.

But what could bring Wonka and Pondicherry together? There was Wonka’s fame, we figured. And, well, chocolate, obviously. But there had to be more. We imagined Wonka flying to India on his own monogrammed jet with purple Wonka livery. Stepping from the plane onto the sun-softened tarmac of the regal runway, we saw him through the Prince’s eyes, a vision in purple through the tropical heat haze.

Still why? ’‘Searching up’’ “What grows in Pondicherry?” Harry quickly discovered it wasn’t cocoa beans but sugarcane that flourished in the plains of surrounding Tamil Nadu. “Wait…what,” he said, “Willy Wonka bought his sugar from Prince Pondicherry!” And, with that, we had our link.

But still one question remained. Why would a headstrong character like Willy Wonka concede to the craziest of follies, a life-size chocolate palace, a home doomed to melt? To answer that, we brought them face-to-face in canopied Pondicherry splendour. Harry envisions the Prince in wondrous khaki and lavish crown, Willy in his trademark jewel-coloured velvet, both on sumptuously-filled cushions to commence their chocolate-flavoured negotiations…