I don’t think there are many people out there who don’t have great memories of reading Roald Dahl when they were young. All kids love to laugh, be scared and grossed out and Dahl’s books offer this in bucket loads. Some of my strongest memories from school are being read his books in class, relishing the horrible grandmother’s comeuppance in GEORGE’S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE and mesmerised by THE WITCHES – my mouth wide open in terror. At home I enjoyed all of his books, in particular the subversive REVOLTING RHYMES and DIRTY BEASTS and was fascinated by his autobiographies BOY and GOING SOLO – it was magical to see where many of his bonkers ideas had come from!
Now I’m enjoying sharing the books I loved with my daughters, devouring his books for younger readers including THE ENORMOUS CROCODILE, THE GIRAFFE THE PELLY AND ME and THE TWITS before moving onto his older books like THE BFG. We’re now currently reading MATILDA (we quickly decided THE WITCHES was still a bit scary – it’s one of the most sinister ideas Dahl came up with) and my eldest has been completely fascinated by it. She’s seen the film and listened to the audio book and now we’re re-reading it together in readiness to see the musical later this autumn. My youngest on the other hand was traumatised by Miss Trunchbull in the film and still runs from the room in terror at the very mention of ‘MATILDA’ crying ‘s-c-a-r-y’!! Roald Dahl has that effect on us all!
Here are some of Hot Key’s favourite Roald Dahl books:
Naomi Colthurst: ‘I really liked DANNY CHAMPION OF THE WORLD – I remember being enthralled by the idea of soaking raisins, splitting them open, filling them with sleeping pills, stitching them back together and then drugging pheasants. I was an odd child. I’m still tempted to soak and stitch back up raisins though – and I also loved the paper fire balloons Danny and his dad made.’
Anna Cunnane (our intern this week): ‘My personal favourite is THE WITCHES because I love the children transformed into hat stands and staring out from paintings on the wall in the first chapters. Also, the fact that the little boy remains a mouse (unlike in the film!) So sinister!’
Sarah Odedina: ‘One of my best holidays ever with my daughters was spent reading and rereading THE TWITS on a beach behind a wind break for a week in southern Spain. We had such a wonderful time sharing that book’
Sara O’Connor: ‘JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH – I love so many Roald Dahl books, but I picked this one because it is utterly bonkers and triumphant, an exceptionally accurate portrayal of what would actually happen if a peach was magically grown huge with a cast of insects inside.’
Sarah Benton: ‘Mine is THE TWITS and MATILDA. I’ve read MATILDA so many times…’
Emily Thomas: ‘JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. Spiker and Sponge are lurking still in the back of my mind, a long time after I first encountered them. They epitomise not just his incredible, delightful, dark imagination but his ability to connect with what stirs the imagination of his readers. Genius.’
Amy Orringer: ‘I think my favourite is ESIO TROT, because it’s about love and tortoises.’
Cait Davies: ‘FANTASTIC MR FOX!! I loved it when I was younger, the thought that animals could organise against the mean farmers blew my mind.’
Georgia Murray: ‘DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD. I loved loved this when I was a kid. I wanted to live in a gypsy caravan by a filling station. I loved the unorthodox life of the boy and his dad and the genius way they get the better of the local bigwig by putting sleeping pills in the raisins to put his pheasants to sleep. So clever and utterly heartwarming.’
Becca Langton: ‘My favourite (apart from Matilda OBVIOUSLY) is GEORGE’S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE because it sets such a wonderfully inappropriate example to children – old relatives annoying you? Mix up everything you can find from under the kitchen sink and sneak it into their cup of tea. Great.’
So what are your favourites? How are you celebrating Roald Dahl day?