Happy Birthday, Roald Dahl!

dahlSeptember 13 is a time to remember one of the most inventive children’s authors, Roald Dahl. (Dahl was born on September 13, 1916.)

Though the current generation of children will think more about Johnny Depp starring in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, there have been many more who have grown up reading about  ‘Matilda’, ‘the BFG’ and practising speaking ‘gobblefunk’ (a language invented by Dahl). In a wonderful world of escapism, Dahl captured the imagination of many young readers, and remains available to avid readers today.

Did you ever…

Did you ever wonder if Matilda would escape her monotonous homelife? Or how would she overcome the awful Trunchbull?

What about ‘the Witches’? Did you see them in your mind in the same way as they were portayed in the movie, ‘the Witches’? Could you handle the descriptions of them better as a book description, than what you saw in a film? (I wouldn’t let my young children watch the movie even though they’d read the book…)

Did you ever want to take off away from your troubles? Well, James does in the form of a giant peach! This is the imagination of Roald Dahl – as he delves into issues of being an unwanted orphan, who is desperate friends. Thus, James has to discover friends instead, in a band of rag-tag anthropomorphic insects; insects transformed by the magic of the green crystals which have grown his peach to giant proportions.


Such are the worlds created by Dahl. Where almost nothing is impossible, and almost all his stories are told from the perspective of a child – and often with some moral to the tale. Gluttony and greed are frowned upon, as is the mistreatment of children. Surprisingly though, some of his books have been censored and/or banned –  ‘the Witches’, ‘James and the Giant Peach’, and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ to name a few.

Banned books!

The first was banned because it gave children an unrealistic or false idea of the way the world works. (Surprise, surprise! it did focus on a witches convention!) ‘James’ was in trouble because he disobeyed his abusive aunts and escaped in a ‘too magical’ peach. And ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ struck trouble, even  before publication, because the original Oompa Loompas were created as black pygmies, who worked only for chocolate and no pay. Thankfully, Dahl bowed to censorship, and changed the offensive racist elements.

As noted by those who have witnessed Dahl’ s popularity: 

“The very controversy caused by Roald Dahl’s works for early adolescents has drawn millions of teens to his books and, subsequently, encouraged them to enjoy reading. These young people found in Roald Dahl something that they could not find anywhere else: an author with a view of society that was essentially identical to their own–distrustful of authority figures and firm in the belief that good will triumph.” Sharon E. Royer in the Alan Review

Maybe we should let students know how Dahl was censored and banned and wait for the rush? Come and visit the display set up for his birthday, take the quiz challenge and read the trivia fact sheet – all thanks to RandomHouse as they too celebrate for 2010. How much do you know about Roald Dahl?

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