A childhood without Roald Dahl books is like chips without ketchup: having one without the other is just weird!
A childhood without Roald Dahl books is like chips without ketchup: having one without the other is just weird! The focus of most of his books, children, are often subjected to some quite traumatic experiences. But Dahl’s way of storytelling makes strange events surrounding them seem regular and sometimes quite humorous. Quentin Blake’s accompanying illustrations are synonymous with the collection and are exciting visual aids for the young reader.
Here’s a run-down of his much-loved children’s books: *The list does contain some unapologetic spoilers because, well, quite frankly you should have read them by now!*
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
You’ll be forgiven for never having heard of or read this one. This lesser-known sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory doesn’t have a charming enough premise to make it a must-read Dahl novel. Events take quite a ridiculous turn after the events of its predecessor with aliens, a trip to the White House and anti-ageing pills.
Boy: Tales of Childhood
I stumbled across this by accident when I was a child, thinking it was a Roald Dahl book I hadn’t encountered yet. It ended up being the first autobiography I ever read and provided a fascinating insight into Dahl’s childhood experiences and growing up in 1920’s Britain. Follow-up, Going Solo, charts Dahl’s later life as a squadron pilot in the Royal Air Force.
Fantastic Mr Fox
Animals are given a rare voice in this classic novel. Recently voiced by George Clooney in a stop-motion animated film version, this tells the story of the cunning Mr Fox as he tries to provide for his family by stealing food from three unwitting farmers.
One of Dahl’s darker novels involves an organisation of witches plotting to kill the entire child population. They plan to do this by poisoning chocolate which would turn the children into mice, which would then be exterminated by humans (Horrible stuff!). Thankfully their evil plan is foiled but our optimistic narrator suffers an unfortunate transition in the process…
James and the Giant Peach
Written in 1961, this is the oldest novel to appear in this countdown and arguably it is Dahl’s most conclusive and satisfying narrative. Adventure and emotive storytelling go hand-in-hand as our protagonist James experiences a rags-to-riches style fortune but not before being locked in a dungeon, lost out at sea on a giant fruit and stranded on top of the Empire State Building!
Giants are grossly underrepresented in literature and film. Thanks to Dahl, the magical world of Giant Country is all that is necessary to quell any curiosities on their supernatural existence! The Big Friendly Giant becomes an unlikely ally for the humans in this uplifting tale which celebrates the power of dreams and the triumph of good-over-evil.
George’s Marvellous Medicine
David Cameron probably had this book in mind when he decided to give the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge a set of Roald Dahl books to celebrate the arrival of the new Prince. Camilla will be hoping baby George doesn’t concoct a potion similar to that of his namesake in the book to leave her standing taller than a house!
This is one of the lesser-known Dahl novels but arguably one of the most charming. Fantastical gimmicks and mythical, supernatural creatures are replaced with an old-fashioned love story with a Dahlian twist. If you’ve no idea what the book is about, writing the title backwards will tell you what Mr Hoppy and Ms Silver’s endearing love is centred around! Production on the film version, starring Dustin Hoffman and Judi Dench, is due to start next spring.
I imagine more people would have seen the film version rather than read the book for this one. The much-loved film has become a classic across all generations and is remarkably faithful to the book. The quick-witted, joyous protagonist uses her superior intelligence to overcome to menacing Miss. Trunchbull and create a more ideal family unit for herself. The sudden adoption at the end is a bit far-fetched, but let’s face it, it was the ending we secretly all want!
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The most well-known Roald Dahl book is quite clearly the best. The charismatic Willy Wonka has been played twice on the big screen and this year, a stage musical adaptation debuted on the West End in June. Charlie Bucket finds the golden ticket to be one of 5 lucky entrants to tour the elusive Chocolate Factory. Unbeknownst to all, Wonka had set up a series of challenges and temptations throughout the grand excursion in a bid to find his heir. The other 4 unlucky children undergo spectacular transformations as punishment for their bad habits and wandering eyes, allowing poverty-stricken, underdog Charlie to walk away with the prize. A classic Dahlian story which lends itself well to stage and screen with its potential for impressive visual effects, and let’s not forget those troubled Oompa Loompas!