Now fans will be able to compare contrasting interpretations of the writer's work. Blake has asked 26 other artists, including Gerald Scarfe, Posy Simmonds and The Gruffalo illustrator, Axel Scheffler, to contribute to a new Dahl book. It illustrates songs and verse from across Dahl's catalogue as well as previously unpublished pieces found in the archives of the new Roald Dahl museum at his old home in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire.
They include a poem, "Miranda Mary Piker", which he left out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because he had already created too many dreadful children, "The Shark" which, forlornly, begs a young boy not to swim in the sea, and a ballad against cricket umpires written when Dahl was still at school.
"Most of the Dahl books in the shops have pictures which I drew specially for them; and many of them which I had discussed with Roald Dahl himself," Blake explains in a foreword. But several Dahl books had previously been illustrated by other people. "It's interesting to compare different versions," says Blake. "So we thought - what about getting a whole assortment of talented artists to join in on the book?"
Helen Mackenzie Smith, who edited the volume, said the illustrations for Dahl were, in many ways, as important as the words. "Quentin's illustrations, for example, always bought another level to Roald's work. They're humorous and light but when you read some of the words they illustrate they can seem a bit dark."
Mini Grey, whose book Biscuit Bear won a Nestlé Children's Book Prize last year, said the best bit of producing a new image of Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was researching chocolates. "The chocolates kept getting 'liberated' by other members of my household," she said.
But she admitted that Blake's long-standing working partnership with Dahl, who died in 1990, was a tough act to follow. One of the pieces she illustrated, the "Giraffe's Song" from The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me, had already been tackled "perfectly" by Blake.
Emma Chichester Clark, who was taught by Blake at the Royal College of Art, said: "It is hard to read Dahl without imagining how Quentin would do it. But it is great to have a challenge and be stretched by having to draw things that don't exist or that are tricky - like the 49 heads ["for There's No Knowing What We Shall See" from James and the Giant Peach]."
Other artists involved are Lane Smith, who has previously illustrated James and the Giant Peach, Lauren Child, award-winning creator of Clarice Bean, and Babette Cole, whose works include Mummy Laid an Egg.
The book, Roald Dahl Songs and Verse, is published by Jonathan Cape next month.Reuse content