Sunday, April 6, 2008

Roald Dahl Musings

There's not much I enjoy more than reading out loud to my kids. Well, reading to myself is higher, but don't tell them that. Over the many years of reading to them, I've discovered what books I hate and which ones I love. Will it alter my children's literature choices over the years, forcing them into genres they may not have picked themselves had them been born to parents who didn't care what junk they picked out for themselves, ultimately leading up to a moment of clarity in a therapist's office? I certainly hope so.

I love Roald Dahl. He's darkly humorous, clever, warped, infinitely creative and most likely psychologically damaged. If you've ever read any kind of biography on him, you'd know of his family tragedies and horrific school experiences. Those Brits, with their obsession of boarding schools. How could that possibly go well? His inspiration for Miss Trunchbull from "Matilda" was based on a real person. Yikes. Despite his personal litany of tragedy, he did much good in the world and found joy in it. Read all about it on the official website.

Something Mr. Dahl is quite excellent at is his villains. They are pure malice. I love a good villain, so it's very satisfying to get to read about his repulsive bad guys. The witches from "The Witches" are delightfully disgusting. I started to read that to my oldest daughter when she was four, but realized it was way, way too scary for her at the time. She might enjoy it now, three years later and huge fan of the Dahl books. Miss Trunchbull makes me angry, she's so mean. The nasty giants from "The BFG", Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker from "James and the Giant Peach", all the other kids from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", and more. He makes a villain so completely unlikeable that their nastiness is hilarious.

Then there's the good guys. Charlie Bucket, James Henry Trotter, Matilda and Miss Honey, Sophie and the BFG, and on and on. They are kind-hearted children, defenseless against powerful and terrible adults. The odds seem insurmountable, but yet, they conquer. One of my favorite scenes is when the Giant Peach rolls over James' nasty aunts, squishing flat like paper dolls. But the best part is when the Centipede sings about it later.

Aunt Spiker was as thin as a wire,
And as dry as a bone, only drier.
She was so long and thin
If you carried her in
You could use her for poking the fire!

"I must do something quickly," she frowned.
"I want FAT. I want pound upon pound.
I must eat lots and lots
Of marshmallows and chocs
Till I start bulging out all around."

"Ah, yes," she announced, "I have sworn
That I'll alter my figure by dawn!"
Cried the peach with a snigger,
"I'LL alter your figure--"
And ironed her out on the lawn!

That cracks me up every time.

I'm not entirely sure why I wanted to write a whole blog just saying how much I like Roald Dahl, but hey, it gave you something to read today, didn't it?

1 comment:

  1. I appreciated it! I think it's good to share books with your kids that they wouldn't otherwise choose for themselves. Alan bought Narnia to read to Anya. It's a book I've never read (don't tell Mike!) but I know she'll enjoy it. I've read all of the Ramona books to her so far and we are now reading Little House on the Prairie and she loves it! It's a nice change from Dora and Princesses.