I Challenged Myself To Read 15 Roald Dahl Books In 3 Months And Here’s What Happened
By Emma Forward
I set myself the challenge to read all of Dahl’s 15 books between my birthday (June 22) and Roald Dahl’s (September 13), and to blog about my reactions. So I began reading the books on my train commute while scribbling notes for my blog. I also decided to visit the Roald Dahl Museum, and to celebrate finishing the set with a trip to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical.
Needless to say, I relished the challenge. I enjoyed reading the books I hadn’t read or didn’t remember well, such as The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, George’s Marvellous Medicine (there’s probably some gasps there as I know this is quite a lot of people’s favourite!) and Esio Trot. Esio Trot is such a heart-warming story, even though it’s so short. The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me has one of my favourite lines in it, part of which can also be found around is simply a magical story.The BFG being a close runner-up. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with Danny the Champion of the World and The BFG, Matilda The challenge also re-affirmed which books were my favourites and had been most memorable for me —
the bench near Dahl’s grave.
… Matilda has always been close to my heart. I really felt connected to her when I was younger, absolutely loving school myself (so much so that I cried when I got chicken pox in my holidays because I thought I wouldn’t be able to back to school!), and being an ardent visitor of the library. I thought it was very cool that there was a girl ‘like me’ depicted in a book.
In Danny the Champion of the World, it’s easily the dad and the way the father-son relationship is described that I love the most. Re-reading the book, I found more and more comparisons with how I feel about my dad. He’s also a mechanic (and therefore equally enthralled with engines and other equipment as Danny’s dad is) and spent hours building things for my sister and I — such as a real wooden Pocahontas boat! Danny’s dad is also kind, calm and a great teacher — all traits that my dad has. I love this quote from the book, and agree with it wholeheartedly.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory encapsulates every kid’s dream to go to a chocolate factory. The way the chocolates and sweets are described make you wish they really existed (particularly the Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight). After also reading Boy, I appreciated the background to the story, learning that Dahl was actually a chocolate taster when he was young!
As an adult, it was easier for me to see that what connects many of my favourite Dahl books is the theme of family. Regardless of whether they are biological or not (Matilda and Miss Honey) or whether they are just two people (Danny and his dad) or an extended family (like Charlie’s), the books made me grateful for having someone to support and encourage me. It complemented my initial thoughtprocess, and made me appreciate my family more.
An element in Dahl’s stories that would appeal to both children and adults is the presence of the ‘horrors’. I remember being scared of the witches, especially when they turned childrento mice! I felt similar about The Trunchbull locking kids in the chokey, the dastardly tricks by The Twits and the despicable aunts in James and the Giant Peach. I think it’s great to not always play it safe for a young audience.
However, the thing I love about Dahl, and perhaps that which makes his writing most ‘acceptable’ to parents is the underlying idea of ‘good triumphs evil’. Usually, it’s the underdogs taking down the tyrants and bullies — Matilda being a prime example, Fantastic Mr Fox another, Danny and his dad, the boy and his grandma in The Witches… the list goes on. I still love this thought as much as I did first time around — ordinary people are capable of greatness.
To sum up, I loved the books just as much as I did before, perhaps even more so, and would encourage others to re-read (or read) them, or other books from their childhood. Combined with my trip to the Roald Dahl Museum and visiting his grave, I feel I know him a bit better.
It’s amazing how many generations have been touched by the stories, and I can’t wait to share them myself. They’re definitely timeless.