Lucy Vickery

‘Your guts will form a stinky pool’: Roald Dahl explains Covid-19 to children

‘Your guts will form a stinky pool’: Roald Dahl explains Covid-19 to children
Patricia Neal and Roald Dahl in 1971. Credit: Norman Hargood/Mgm/Kobal/Shutterstock
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In Competition No. 3153 you were invited to recruit a well-known children’s writer to explain Covid-19 to their young audience.

Designer Jim Malloy’s reimagining of Dr Seuss titles for the coronavirus age — Oh, the Places You Won’t Go!; Docs in Smocks — gave me the idea for this challenge and though I had high hopes for Seuss-inspired submissions none quite hit the mark.

Of the many entries featuring Richmal Crompton’s William Brown, Adrian Fry’s was my favourite: ‘William wasn’t exactly sure what a moonity was, but gathered it had something to do with freedom, of which he naturally approved…’. I also admired Eric Carle’s The Very Angry Virus, courtesy of David Silverman: ‘On Thursday he infects Cheltenham Racecourse, 400,000 joggers and half of Europe. On Friday he infects half of America. On Saturday he infects one Secretary of State for Health, one Chief Medical Officer, one Prime Minister, one Prime Minister’s adviser, one Durham petrol-station assistant, and half of Brazil…’ And an appreciative high-five goes to Robert Schechter, channelling Christina Rossetti:

Who has seen the bug?

Neither you nor I.

But when you find it hard to breathe

The bug is passing by.

Other stellar perfomers, in a hotly contested week, were Helen Scott, Mike Morrison, David Ryder, Jeremy Carlisle and Chris O’Carroll. The winners, printed below, pocket £30 each.

Your parents, bless their cotton socks,

Have told you of this latest pox.

But what they say’s a bit remiss,

Not worth a string of liquorice —

The truth involves a pangolin

They hunted for its scaly skin,

Which caught the sniffles from a bat.

Well goodness gracious! Fancy that!

The sniffle turned into a sneeze

That wafted on the slightest breeze,

And all those hunters, to be brief,

Forgot to use a handkerchief.

That snot’s disgusting! Take a breath,

You might well die a painful death,

Your guts will form a stinky pool.

The good news is, they’ve shut your school.

Bill Greenwell/Roald Dahl
Please Mrs Butler

You’re coughing quite a lot

And you’re really hot and sweaty, Miss.

Is Covid what you’ve got?

Be guided by the science,

And please don’t badger me.

Just keep your distance, wash your hands

And fetch my PPE.

It’s hard to understand, Miss,

For kids as young as us

Just what Covid is, Miss,

And why there’s such a fuss.

The school needs an example, dear,

Of someone who’s unwell.

So hurry to Assembly now

And I’ll do Show and Tell.

Martin Parker/Allan Ahlberg
How doth the little Covid-bug

Find space to breed and grow?

If you should give your friend a hug

The Covid-bug will know.

 

How cheerfully upon your skin

The friendly fellow lands,

He welcomes little children in

Who never wash their hands.

 

With smiling jaws he’ll wait for you

When you go back to school,

While rustling up a nasty brew:

Coronavirus gruel.

 

So, children, find yourselves some soap

To wash your little paws,

And bin those tissues, then there’s hope

You’ll clip the Covid’s claws!

Sylvia Fairley/Lewis Carroll
Covvid 19, as any fule kno, is space plague sent bak through time to punish the older generashun, viz Gran who sa ‘Stuff and Nonsense’ and Headmaster GRIMES, who have tuffed up Mother Nature and left terribul legacy to Nobel Youth Chiz. Zero cases at St Custards thanks to matron’s profalaktik GIN regeem but all sent home anyway cheers to practis soshul distancing as virus so weedy it wither in fresh air like Sigismund the Mad Maths Master. Six feet as close to Molesworth 2 as anyone want to get anyway as his higene my deah hem hem but he also computer Geenius and create avatars of eager Molesworth students for ZOOM lesson wile we pla Mayhem Alley 14 dakadakada, eeeeough. ‘It cannot go on’ sa Mater and Pater now on Matron GIN diet but we choorus ‘Protect Nobel NHS’ Cheers cheers this could runn and runn.

Nick Syrett/Geoffrey Willans
Christopher Robin had told Pooh how germs could leap on you like Jagulars and get inside you and stop you breathing, and how you knew you had coronavirus and what to do about it. Pooh decided to test his smell and taste first, so he had a little honey. And some more, just to be sure. He told Piglet on Zoom to wash his paws and sing Happy Birthday. ‘But it’s not your bir…’, Piglet began, but Pooh was already Zooming Owl. Owl coughed. Pooh felt worried. ‘I was clearing my throat’, explained Owl. ‘As to the coronary fire-house I shall be Guided by the Science.’ Pooh decided he needn’t tell Eeyore, as Eeyore was always self-isolating and keeping an anti-social distance from everyone. Instead, he tried to make up a hum, but ‘virus’ and ‘admire us’ didn’t seem right. So he had some more honey and Stayed at Home.

Nicholas Hodgson/A.A. Milne

No. 3156: schadenfreude

You are invited to supply a piece of verse or prose on the subject of schadenfreude. Please email up to 150 words/16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 1 July. NB. We are unable to accept postal entries for the time being.