(You can't write about Roald Dahl without some gorgeous illustrations by Quentin Blake! Can you guess the stories that these are from?)
After a little while away from the blog, setting up the Roses and the Stars website, it feels fitting that my first post back is a celebration of Roald Dahl, the man who inspired me as a small child and very slow reader, to pick up books and get excited by storytelling.
Everyone has their favourite Dahl book. For me it has always been George's Marvelous Medicine, which looking back, is probably one of the darkest of the author's children's books (best not to analyse what that means about me...!). Flicking through the TV on Sunday night, I stumbled upon 'Roald Dahl's Most Marvelous Book', a simple concept, where 10 famous faces put forward their case for why their favourite Dahl story should be voted as the best, with some having loved the books as kids themselves and others having loved reading them to their own children growing up.
I think the theme that most people recognise throughout Dahl's work is that the nastiest people are not always kept to the pages of fairy tales but are instead; often those people that kids should trust the most, whether it be the parents in Matilda, Aunts in James and the Giant Peach or Grandma in George's Marvelous Medicine. It's because of this that I find it amazing that the stories have endured for so long, especially during these modern days of mollycoddled kids and overprotective parents.
But it is these darker themes that I find the most rewarding part of books by Dahl because ultimately it is the downtrodden kid, the poor kid, the orphaned kid; that wins out in the end; a lesson which I think you can never be too young to learn.
The darkness is always managed to be counteracted by the light in these tales. The adventures so great, so bright and so imaginative that children will be hard pressed not to start a love affair with the English language for their lives ahead (whizzpopper anyone?). In fact, Dahl made up 500 new words in his books, which are often easier for kids to understand that the adult equivalents, making the world open up and become even more exciting for them.
A point I found interesting during the Marvelous Book TV show, was that it seemed to be men who were the loudest advocates of Dahl's work. Now whether that's opening up a debate on the lack of females on TV I don't know, this is certainly not the intention. Instead, I thought, that during a time when we hear report after report of boys falling behind in reading at school, maybe there hasn't been a better time to reignite a love affair with Dahl's novels.
I can see why boys would be drawn to the stories, not that they're not also fantastic for girls, but as a tomboy myself growing up, I was completely uninterested in fairytales or princesses. Instead, I constantly looked for adventure, and much to my parents dismay, mischief, which is why I think these books struck such a chord and probably why I always loved George over Charlie Bucket (of Chocolate Factory fame), who was probably a bit too much of a goodie two shoes in my eyes back then...
We'd love to know which books and characters by Dahl, have stayed with you and we'd also love to know if any of your children will be celebrating Roald Dahl Day at their schools on Monday 13th September. Please tag us in your photos on Instagram so we can take a peek at your costumes and of course the revolting recipes...
To find out more about events taking place nationwide to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl, for the inner child in all of us, click here...
And anyone wanting a trip down memory lane, you can click below for Rik Mayall's infamous Jackanory recording of George's Marvelous Medicine!