Roald Dahl’s Best Books
September 13th marked what would have been Roald Dahl’s 98th birthday. Considering the majority of his publications are over two decades old, it’s terrific that they are still enjoyed by so many. In celebration of this, I have painstakingly selected my favourite Roald Dahl books. Trust me, it was not an easy decision to pick just five!
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
What it is: This one probably doesn’t really need explaining. For those that don’t happen to know it, a penniless boy called Charlie gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory when he finds a golden ticket in his chocolate bar.
As they flashed past it there was just enough time to read the writing on the door: STOREROOM NUMBER 54, it said. ALL THE CREAMS – DAIRY CREAM, WHIPPED CREAM, VIOLET CREAM, COFFEE CREAM, PINEAPPLE CREAM, VANILLA CREAM, AND HAIR CREAM.
Why it’s great: Roald Dahl invented a huge range of words and phrases in this book to make the Willy Wonka and his factory feel all the more removed from normality. Anyone fancy trying a ‘snozzcumber’, perhaps? And let’s not forget his wonderful workers, the Oompa-loompas, who had long been terrorised by ‘hornswogglers’ and ‘whangdoodles’. This book really allows your imagination to run riot; after all, who wouldn’t want to explore a chocolate factory?!
What it is: The tale of a big, friendly giant who, along with a little girl called Sophie, endeavour to put an end to the flesh-eating giants that steal children from their beds while they sleep.
“Out there us has the famous Bonecrunching Giant! Bone-crunching Giant crunches up two wopsey whiffling human beans for supper every night! Noise is earbursting! Noise of crunching bones goes crackety-crack for miles around!”
Why it’s great: More nutty, inventive words from Dahl which really help to give the BFG a whole load of character when he talks, such as using the words “moocheling” and “crodscollop”. It’s also pretty gruesome – especially the descriptions of the different giants eating humans – which is great if you have a morbid sense of humour.
Fantastic Mr Fox
What it is: A family of foxes live (reasonably) peacefully, occasionally stealing the odd animal from the nearby farms. That is until a trio of terrible farmers get fed up of this and decide to flush them out of their den.
“Oh, Dad,” said one of the Small Foxes, “couldn’t we just sneak up and snatch it out of his hand?”
“Don’t you dare!” said Mrs. Fox. “That’s just what they want you to do.”
“But we’re so hungry!” they cried.
Why it’s great: The book really does a great job of depicting the fast-paced dash between the farmers and the foxes, keeping you on the edge of your seat whilst rooting for a happy outcome. The personalisation of the woodland animals against the vilification of the the farmers also really makes you think about the impact that humans are having on wildlife, which is a pretty powerful revelation.
George’s Marvellous Medicine
What it is: George, a little boy who lives with his horrible grandma, gets sick of how she treats him and decides to “cure” her by concocting a “medicine” made from everything he can get his hands on. Hilarity ensues when she actually drinks it.
The first one he took down was a large box of Superwhite for automatic washing-machines. Dirt, it said will disappear like magic. George didn’t know whether Grandma was automatic or not, but she was certainly a dirty old woman. “So she’d better have it all,” he said, tipping in the whole boxful.
Why it’s great: Roald Dahl’s humour really shines through in this book, especially when it comes to George’s comments on the multitude of ingredients that he adds to the “medicine”. The ingredients are also very inventive, ranging from curry powder and shampoo, to animal medication and bird seed.
What it is: A young boy and his grandmother stay at a hotel in Bournemouth and soon discover that they are sharing it with England’s entire population of child-hating witches.
A REAL WITCH gets the same pleasure from squelching a child as you get from eating a plateful of strawberries and thick cream.
Why it’s great: The beginning of the book addresses the reader directly and is presented in a factual manner, which gives you the impression that you’re not just reading the story; in fact, it makes you feel as if you’re reading an autobiography of real (albeit far-fetched) events. It’s also worth reading for the grotesque description of the Grand High Witch’s hideous face.
All of Roald Dahl’s stories seem to be absolutely bursting with imagination, and the vivid descriptions really draw you in; it’s no wonder that so many Roald Dahl books have been made into films as a result. While the above books could all be considered “children’s” stories, they all have elements of black humour or horror undertones, so they actually do appeal to many age groups. Here’s hoping that his wonderful books will be as widely enjoyed on his 198th birthday!