Don’t try this at home!

In December 2020, the British Medical Journal published a very special scientific paper: “Toxicological analysis of George’s marvellous medicine: literature review“. Graham Johnson, a consultant in emergency and paediatric medicine, and Patrick Davies, a consultant in paediatric intensive care, reviewed each of the 34 ingredients in George’s marvelous medicine against a poison control database to assess the toxicity.

Our findings suggest that far from being marvellous, George’s medicine is in fact incredibly toxic.

Don’t try this at home, kids! 😂


Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse

If you’re in the UK, there’s a new movie airing on Sky One on Christmas Eve called Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse.

This movie is based on the “true story” of when six-year-old Roald Dahl met his favourite author, the 80-year-old Beatrix Potter. Two of the most famous children’s books authors meeting up?! Seems to good to be true, doesn’t it? As a longtime Dahl fan, my initial reaction to this news was, “Huh??” I immediately ran to check both the Treglown and Sturrock biographies, and neither of them mention this at all. You’d think this momentous intersection between Dahl and Potter would merit a mention, right? 🤔

The only actual source I’ve found so far is this story from Wales Online, which says, “Dahl confided in friend Brough Girling about the meeting before his death in 1990, and Mr Girling has spoken about it for the first time” in 2008. Girling claims that Felicity Dahl confirmed the story, and presumably that’s true given the fact that they’ve turned it into a film.

Still, it’s all rather tenuous, isn’t it? Dahl was a very old man when he related this story to Girling, and Girling only came forward with it 18+ years later. And I know there are examples of Dahl misremembering events from his own childhood. In Boy – Tales of Childhood, for example, he talks about how seeing Geoffrey Fisher, then Archbishop of Canterbury, crown Queen Elizabeth in Westminster Abbey made him doubt the existence of God, since Fisher had administered vicious flogging and abuse to boys at Roald’s school Repton. However, Jeremy Treglown realised the dates didn’t line up and Dahl had confused Fisher with his successor as headmaster. Could he have misremembered meeting Potter?

Look, I have no idea whether Roald Dahl ever did meet Beatrix Potter. I just find it odd that two biographers, both of whom did massive amounts of research on his life (and Sturrock was a family friend, I believe), neglected to mention this meeting in their books. 🤷‍♀️

Dahl family apology for anti-Semitic comments

Many folks alerted me to the recent apology posted on the official Roald Dahl website and seemed surprised to learn about this aspect of the author. It’s never really been a secret, and I suspect it’s probably the reason he was never offered the knighthood he wanted. (Similarly, The Guardian reported the Royal Mint cancelled plans to honour the 100th year since his birth with a commemorative coin because of his anti-Semitic remarks.) Since I started this fan site back in 1996, I’ve received a number of emails from students and teachers upset when they learned of some of Dahl’s problematic opinions. I even had an item on my FAQ page about it. While I appreciate that the family made a statement, it’s very brief and rather vague. I’m also unclear what prompted them to finally apologise so many years after his death.

If you are interested in reading more about the unvarnished Dahl – both the good and the bad – you should check out Jeremy Treglown’s Roald Dahl: A Biography (or read these reviews of the book which mention a bit of it).

Roald Dahl’s “The Twits” Online

Great news, Dahl fans! The UK’s Unicorn Theatre, together with The Guardian, have released a brand new theatrical reading of one of Roald Dahl’s best-loved books about a most despicable couple, The Twits, the clever Muggle-Wump and the magnificent Roly-Poly Bird. This unabridged reading, filmed in the Unicorn theatre, is gleeful, gunge-filled digital storytelling aimed at children aged 6 – 12.

And you can watch the whole thing online until November 30th!

“Gremlins… A Warning!”

I’ve recently tracked down yet another version of Dahl’s Gremlins, this time a short story called “Gremlins… A Warning!” from the April 11, 1943 issue of This Week Magazine. Based on the timing, I’m fairly certain this was published as part of a concerted marketing push to keep the public interested in the Gremlins characters while Disney continued to struggle with the planned film production. It’s interesting to see that this version is credited to Dahl directly (as opposed to Cosmopolitan’s story five months earlier, which used the pseudonym “Pegasus”).

“Gremlins... A Warning” from April 1943 “This Week Magazine”

Roald Dahl… movie reviewer?!

Today I learned that Roald Dahl wrote, on at least one occasion, a published movie review! His review of the 1964 British neo noir drama film Séance on a Wet Afternoon was called “The Painful Pleasure of Suspense” and was published in the December 1964 issue of LIFE Magazine. You can go here to read the complete text.

I have to say, I winced a few times while reading that review. Not because of his opinion of the film (which he loved), but because some of the comments seem particular pointed for someone married to a movie star actress. For example, “fine actors of only moderate fame will make far better films than glamorous world-famous stars of only moderate ability.”

I mean, OUCH. Poor Patricia Neal!

Playing the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” Board Game

In 1978, Knopf books made a rare foray into board games, publishing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: A Game. I was fortunate enough to find a copy of this on Ebay a while back, and recently I coerced a group of friends into playing it for the first time.

Perhaps unsurprisingly (since it was created by a book publishing house), the game is entirely made up of cardboard and it fits neatly on a bookshelf. The game features Joseph Schindelman illustrations and artwork throughout. The cover unfolds into the game board and all of the needed game pieces pop out. Instead of dice, there are 22 numbered tiles that players select from to determine their next move. There are also five Golden tickets, five cards for each of the children, and six player chips that move around the board (the children plus Mr. Wonka). You win the game if you hold the Charlie card as the Charlie chip reaches the Television Chocolate Room.

You guys… the rules are complicated. We read them multiple times and it was still confusing. (Granted, we were drinking wine, but still.) It was also a much slower game than I expected. First there’s a setup phase where you draw Golden Tickets and claim children. Then there’s the tour phase, where Mr. Wonka and the children sloooowly progress through the factory. At each of the rooms, one of the naughty children disappears and is removed from the game. No child can move in front of Mr. Wonka, and he has to stop at each of the rooms until all of the children have joined him. So the game effectively resets at each of the rooms, and basically none of the gameplay until “The Nut Room” actually matters. Most of what you’re doing is just swapping child cards around. Whenever someone finds a Golden Ticket (which can happen at any time during the game), that player can claim the lowest numbered child card from someone else as long as its token is not “safe” (ie on a space with a dot the same colour as it). In addition to that, whenever a child chip lands on a Switch space OR lands on the same space as Willy Wonka (if he’s not in one of the rooms), the player can switch child cards with any other player (again, as long as that child’s token isn’t “safe”). Oh, and every time you run out of number cards you have to collect them all, mix them up, and put them back in the pot. So it’s a lot of stopping and starting, swapping child cards, and consulting the rules repeatedly – and really none of it actually matters until the very end. Not the most satisfying of games I’ve ever played, to tell you the truth.

That said, my friend Rory certainly enjoyed when he won!

So in summary: As a piece of Dahl memorabilia, I love this game. The illustrations and typography are gorgeous (I’ve always loved Schindelman’s slightly grotesque style), and the design of game board and pieces is very clever. If you’re a Dahl collector, you should definitely try to get your hands on a copy. As a playable board game though, it leaves a lot to be desired. The rules are overly complicated, and I can’t really picture any kids enjoying it. (I guess that’s why it was never republished!)