I feel a bit like I’m cheating by writing about one of the best-loved children’s authors of all time, but my love is real. So real that if we ever have another boy, his middle name with probably be Roald. So real that when I once saw a poster for the movie adaptation of The Fantastic Mr. Fox that read, “From the author of James and the Giant Peach,” I was so bothered by the fact that the poster didn’t use his name that my husband still cites this as an example of my inability to let things go. Seriously, though, hasn’t the man proven himself as a household name yet? It’s not like he’s easy to mix up with all the other Roalds out there writing children’s books. (Josh is right. I just can’t let this one* go.) So even though I am certain every person reading this post is already familiar with Roald Dahl’s body of work, let me tell you (at length) why I love him so much.
About the Author
Roald Dahl was born in Wales to Norwegian parents and was named after Roald Amundsen, the first Norwegian to travel to the South Pole. He lost his sister and father as a boy before enlisting as a fighter pilot in WWII. His first children’s book (James and the Giant Peach) started as a bedtime story for his five children. He told the BBC that most of his stories were pretty bad, but he learned to read his children’s expressions to figure out if the story was appealing. “And if they ever said the next night, ‘Tell us some more about that one,’ you knew you had something. This went on for quite a long time with a story about a peach that got bigger and bigger and I thought, ‘Well heck, why don’t I write it.'” He did most of his writing in a small shed in the backyard where he escaped the noise and bustle of the family. I’ve seen pictures of the writing hut, and I wouldn’t mind something similar myself. The hut is currently on display in the Roald Dahl museum (which is now on my list of places I’d love to visit).
About the Books
Most of Roald Dahl’s books are for children, although he did write for adults as well. He wrote a number of screenplays, including the film adaptations of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and You Only Live Twice. His books are quirky and sometimes a bit dark, which makes them so much more appealing to all the children I know. Death, danger, and horrible adults are all over the pages, but the books are also witty, fast-paced, and end well. Matilda is a perennial favorite of bookworms everywhere, and NPR did a nice spot about the book (and Dahl himself) when it was chosen for Backseat Bookclub in 2013. He was vocal about the fact that writing took plenty of stamina as well as humor. “It helps if you have a keen sense of humor. This is not essential for writing for grown-ups, but for children, it’s vital.” There are so many stories of his that I haven’t read yet, but I’d love to start first with The Roald Dahl Cookbook. Like most of his best books, it’s illustrated by Quentin Blake.
My personal favorite is The BFG (And no, I haven’t seen the movie yet. I’m scared!), although Charlie and the Chocolate Factory made a surge to the top of the list when I read it to my oldest child years ago. I’d grown up on the movie and didn’t realize just how delightfully weird the book is. I loved it. In our house, Roald Dahl seems to be the bridge between the earliest chapter books my kids like but the adults would rather not read over and over (I’m looking at you, Magic Treehouse and Boxcar Children) and books we enjoy too. The Fantastic Mr. Fox was the first favorite chapter book our oldest would listen to without squirming away. Our middle child is just now falling in love with chapter books, and while she enjoys all of his books, The Witches is her absolute favorite. (This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows her morbid sense of humor.)
What about you and yours? Any other avid Roald Dahl fans? Which story or book is your favorite?
*Or the fact that The Hobbit, which is one relatively short book, was somehow turned into the same number of movies as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. I try not to bring this up, but I can’t stop myself. I can not get over it.