My favorite childhood author: Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl’s books bring back a great deal of fantastic memories largely because he is such an animated and wicked storyteller whose stories appeal to large masses of audiences, rather than being primarily constrained to children per se.

I am not particularly certain which was my first Roald Dahl book, but if my remarkably limited memory does not fail me, it should be James and the Giant Peach.

Through James Trotter, who brought me on board his big peach with his six insect friends, I entered into the world of Roald Dahl where children and the weaker ones in the society are empowered to effect changes for themselves. Although Trotter suffered for years under his abusive aunts, his hard work, resourcefulness and camaraderie helped him successfully escape his unfortunate fate.

Such a similar theme resonates in his other books such as the highly popular Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Director Tim Burton said in a 2005 interview he responded to make the book into a movie because it respected the fact that children can be adults.

“It was one of the first times you had children’s literature that was a bit more sophisticated and dealt with darker issues and feelings,” he said. “Sinister things are a part of childhood.”

Apart from Charlie Bucket, the poor lad who lives with his parents, paternal and maternal grandparents in a rickety old house, the four other children who won the golden tickets were all warped characters. One is mad about TV, the other a glutton, another a gum addict and the last, a spoilt brat; but the most heartening part is to know that none of them had a good ending.

Watch the trailer for the movie below:

As a young child, reading Dahl’s books made me feel really good for days where I envisioned that as kids, if I am willing to work hard and be good, I could possibly change the world and overthrow the world of the adults… which essentially did not happen.

It is the combination of his active imagination, picturing big, friendly giants who blow dreams into people when they are asleep, together with his eye for details, having step-by-step instructions on how to identify real witches – particularly English ones, that captivates the hearts and minds of children through ages.

As compared to another great British writer Enid Blyton, who is also featured in this series (click here to read the post), Dahl’s books are in general lengthier and is built around a very clear central character(s) whom the title of the book is usually named after. Think Mathilda and the BFG.

Moreover, his plots are also much less simpler than Blyton’s, often adding in some dark humor or sick twist to the plot. For instance, in The Twits, Mr. and Mrs. Twit are not the usual human beings you will usually meet on the streets. They are ugly, disgusting and stupid, spotting long raggedy hair that are in all ways bitterly cruel to anything alive, including animals and children. When the animals had the chance to take revenge, they fooled the Twits into gluing them on the ceiling, leaving them hanging upside down until they all disappear, leaving nothing but a puddle of water. The ending is not exactly sweet or inspiring but is rather written in a cynical manner typical of Dahl’s poignant and humorous style.

When discussing about Dahl, it would a disservice to not discuss about Quentin Blake, the illustrator whose scribbly lines became the best companion of Dahl’s words. Blake helps puts a face on all of Dahl’s characters through his creative, helping define the visual outlook of Dahl’s books.

I must say it is an absolute joy while reading paragraphs describing Mathilda’s intelligence, to allow your eyes to drift to the artwork of her staring at the newspaper, which is disproportionately bigger than her body.

Moreover, his drawings also remind me of how kids typically draw and scribble for they look like rough sketches rather than polished pieces of art, giving his drawings a childish sense of fun.

As such, critics went as far as to comment, “Dahl and Blake are… the Lennon and McCartney of children’s literature.”

Roald Dahl Day is coming on Tuesday, September 13. Click here to find out various party ideas to join in the fun!

For more information, please go to these websites:
Official Roald Dahl site
Official Quentin Blake site

3 thoughts on “My favorite childhood author: Roald Dahl

  1. Roald Dahl is one of those authors who doesn’t talk down to kids. That’s what makes his books so accessible. If only everybody could see past ages and not be afraid to approach serious subjects with children in mind as the audience.

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