I don't think I've spent nearly enough time waxing poetic about one of my all-time favorite authors so that's what today's post is all about. Roald Dahl was introduced to me by my best friend roughly 15 years ago. You might know him best as the author of Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, and James and the Giant Peach. I mention these because the film adaptations are fairly popular (as they should be because they're excellent). Today I'm going to discuss 5 more that you may or may not have heard of and which I binge read quite recently.
The Twits is the story of two horrible, nasty individuals by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Twit. Their favorite occupation (besides being absolutely horrendous in increasingly vile ways to one another) is to torment their 4 trained monkeys and the birds which roost in their tree. As with most of Dahl's writing, there is a most satisfying conclusion at the end of this book which I just can't in good conscience spoil. Just know that Mr. Dahl certainly doesn't shrink from ghastly topics. ;-)
The story of The Magic Finger begins with a little girl playing with her two friends, the Gregg brothers. These two little boys share a singular passion with their father: hunting. Despite the little girls repeated pleas for them to stop this beastly sport, they decide to go ahead with their plan to go duck hunting. The little girl is made so angry by this that she unleashes the power of her Magic Finger and the results are truly horrifying. Let's just say that they shouldn't have dismissed her advice as being for the birds.
Perhaps my favorite of the lot was The Minpins which is a large sized picture book with beautiful color illustrations. The artwork alone makes this a fantastic piece of children's literature. This was posthumously published and is very different from the other books which I've read by him (and illustrated by Patrick Benson instead of Quentin Blake). It is the story of Little Billy (a human child) who escapes from his family home into the woods where he has been expressly forbidden to enter. There he comes into contact with a ferocious beast...and tiny little people called the Minpins who live high up in the trees. A marvelous adventure unfolds among these disparate characters which is both beautifully told and fantastically illustrated. It's a must read.
Now The Great Mouse Plot is a true story from Dahl's childhood which had me equal parts chuckling and shocked. It is the story of a singular event which occurred when he was a little boy. He and a few of his friends from school decide to exact revenge against a nasty old lady that runs a sweets shop...and that's all you should know going into this one. Prepare yourself.
And finally The Vicar of Nibbleswicke which was written for the Dyslexia Institute in London. (Dahl and Blake donated their rights to the Institute and it was actually published after Dahl's death.) This is a quick little book about a vicar who just happens to be dyslexic. However, he has conquered the normal form of dyslexia and contracted a new (and fictional) type called Back-to-Front Dyslexia which causes much of what he says to come out backwards. Conversations with his new parishioners, sermons, etc all are said as almost complete gibberish. Much hilarity ensues.
And there's my rundown of 5 Roald Dahl books which you may or may have heard of but which you most definitely should read.
If I were a man with a beard, or a wife with a husband with a beard, by the time I got to page 5 of The Twits, that beard would have to go. Dahl's description of beards in general, and of the various refuse that made its home in Mr Twit's beard in particular, had me wincing, and Blake's illustrations made it that much worse. Yuck! Mrs. Twit doesn't fare much better. She's mean and hateful and cruel, a most terrible, horrible woman.
The Twits is more gross than dark, and pretty humorous. If I were going to read Dahl to a kid who might not go in for the darker, scarier stuff, this is the story I'd choose.
Oh, I love The Twits. When rereading I can still remember how I felt reading this lovely disgusting book when I was a little girl of seven. I knew my mum loved Roald Dahl books, and The Twitswas one of the first ones I read because it's so thin. It's a bit younger than The BFG and Mathilda are, but this book still makes me smile like an idiot.