His words burn brightly in book shops, libraries and bedrooms, easily traversing the generations to capture the hearts of children today – just as they did when they were first published. With his perfect mixture of silly and sad, nonsense and logic, good people and greedy folk, Roald Dahl has taught us some timeless lessons and these, in our opinion, are five of the most important…
1) Sometimes big people are mean
A common theme across Dahl’s books is that of a nice child who is trying to figure out the not-so-nice adults. Take James, a little boy whose parents are eaten by a rhinoceros, who has to go to live with his aunts – who are mean with a capital M. He ends up turning a tiny peach tree into a giant peach, moving into it and making friends with some cute mini-beasts, before squishing his wicked old aunts and floating away. Or what about those grotesque Twits who munch on worms instead of spaghetti and those gruff old child-eating giants in The BFG (who are actually quite gentle when you make friends with them)? For those of us who love a happy ending, the good thing is that the kid always triumphs. Phew!
2) Sometimes a bit of sugar does make it all better
Most kids will watch the film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the original is best) and dream of a lifetime of chocolate rivers and edible jelly flowers. Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory is magical – and not just in a literal sense (all those trained squirrels). But before you get to the wonderland, you have to experience Charlie Bucket’s terrible little life, complete with four grandparents sharing a bed and freezing cold nights. Then along comes the magic of melting chocolate that erases his poverty and all that endless cabbage soup. Dahl’s fantasy world, in which every child could eat to his or her heart’s content, satisfies a deep need in little readers for care, nourishment and affection. From the delcious sounding scrumdiddlyumptious bar to the everlasting gobstopper, the tastes almost jump off the page. And who wouldn’t want to try a chewing gum that turns them into a blueberry?
3) Sometimes being a child is lonely
Matilda had to spend all day at home on her own, without even a book for company. So many of the kids in Dahl’s books have real problems – messy families, bad ideas and trouble at school. They go to the doctor, get their letters mixed up when they read and don’t get enough to eat. Roald Dahl was one of the first authors to show that horrible people could be the closest carers, but his stories always saw the children overcome them in amazing and awful ways. George, for example, the hero of George and the Magic Medicine, is very resourceful in mixing up potions in order to rid himself of his awful grandmother. (Don’t try this at home.)
4) Sometimes you’ve just got to believe in yourself
Who could have thought a tiny little creature could outwit a big strong farmer? In Fantastic Mr Fox we see how a dash of self-belief, a clutter of good friends and a pocketful of smarts can go a long way to keep a whole forest full of creatures safe and sound. Mr. Fox overcomes the cruel, brutish farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean every night, proving good will win out. (NB: check out the George Clooney-starring, stop motion movie adaptation – it’s one of the finest Dahl adaptations ever.)
5) Sometimes you just need to laugh
What can be funnier than a half-a-dozen Revolting Rhymes? Turning the traditional fairy tale on its head, with his very special brand of very dark comedy, Dahl retells six classic tales with different twists and endings. A parody of some of the best-loved folk tales, this is also well known for being the shortest children’s book that Dahl ever wrote. The stories are loved as much for their quick wit as the brilliant Quentin Blake illustrations that accompany the book.
For more information on all things Dahl including quizzes, recipes and lots more check out www.roalddahl.com
Great Dahl reads
Dedicated to Dahl’s grandchildren, and one of his last books, this is a story of a very shy man and a very kind woman, and a small tortoise called Alfie who brings them together. It is now also a movie starring Dustin Hoffman. One for the older children.
From Dhs46. www.desertcart.ae.
The Enormous Crocodile
This was the first of Dahl’s books to be illustrated by Quentin Blake. It documents the tale of a greedy, guzzling crocodile who gets his comeuppance once and for all. Children from six years will enjoy this one.
From Dhs26. www.kinokuniya.com.
Real witches hate children, but they don’t wear silly black hats and cackle. They live in ordinary houses and have ordinary jobs and that’s why they are so hard to catch. This is a perfect tale of mayhem for children seven years and older and superior to Nicolas Roeg’s very good movie adaptation thanks to Dahl’s original, dark ending.
From Dhs36. www.kinokuniya.com.