By Megan Powell, Lucy Carr, and Michael Calder
As one of the most recognised storytellers of the twentieth century, Welsh-born novelist Roald Dahl gained approval during the 1960’s with the release of James and the Giant Peach (1961) and continued to grow in popularity with a multitude of classic novels for children. Born in 1916, Dahl’s youth was plagued by tragedy. Raised during the aftermath of World War One, Dahl’s older sister and father died in 1920, leaving his family in turmoil. Dahl joined the RAF at the age of twenty-three and served throughout World War Two, beginning his phenomenal career as a writer in the years that followed.
Lamb to the Slaughter (1953)
While Roald Dahl is fondly remembered for his marvellous children’s fiction, Lamb to the Slaughter demonstrates an ability to craft compelling, dark-humoured fiction for adults which few attribute to the prolific author. The short story details an unprecedented evening in the mundane life of Mary Maloney and harbours a maniacal twist. Pregnant and held captive by the homely habits she has accrued, Mary idealises her husband and his stoic nature, basing every moment of her day around his return. However, when her husband makes a confession, Mary discovers something about herself. This domestic housewife is capable of murder. Not only is she capable, she’s pretty good. Covering her tracks with genius imagination and unflappable composure, Mary becomes a progressively enjoyable character, transitioning from a dreary spouse into a sadistic protagonist, marking Lamb to the Slaughter as one of Roald Dahl’s best works.
James and the Giant Peach (1961)
After writing a few adult short stories, Dahl turned to writing children stories and established his first classic children's novel with James and the Giant Peach. Dahl almost settled for a giant cherry, but instead opted for a peach. The story follows James who was orphaned and brought up by his two mean aunts. After receiving a bag of magical crystals, James accidentally produces a giant peach. Upon exploration into the peach he discovers mutated bugs, who become friends of James and leads him onto an adventure. Collectively they travel to New York City via peach, where James meets and befriends more children. This is a story of friendship and sharing the message to never give up.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1979)
This book needs little introduction; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the iconic story of eleven-year-old Charlie Bucket, who wins a golden ticket allowing him to enter the chocolate factory of the infamous and eccentric chocolatier, Willy Wonka. The story has been adapted into video games, stage productions, films, amusement park rides and more. The wonder, depth and imagination contained in this story continues to capture the hearts of children and adults alike, and its ability to continuously reach new audiences is indicative of its timeless quality. In exciting news, Timothee Chalamet has been announced as the next Willy Wonka in an upcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical prequel. If this isn’t a reason to revisit one of Roald Dahl’s most famous and fun creations, I don’t know what is.
The BFG (1982)
The BFG was published in 1982, after a brief appearance in Danny the Champion of the World. The Big Friendly Giant was an idea Dahl had previously explored and told to his children. The story follows the BFG who is unlike any other giants in Giant Country. He doesn’t eat humans and embarks on a mission with orphan Sophie to stop the other giants from doing so. The gentle giant collects and gives good dreams to children, which Sophies tries to help him achieve. In their adventure, the Queen of England also helps them in removing the not so friendly, child-eating giants. Dahl creates a visionary world with the giants through the mesmerising illustrations by Blake. With the gobblefunk language, the reader is transported to Giant Country and is fully immersed in Sophie and the BFG’s quest.
Matilda is one of Roald Dahl’s most treasured works. It won the Children’s Book Award shortly after it was published in 1988, and is frequently commended as one of the best children’s books of all time. Matilda tells the much loved story of a five-year-old genius who uses her intelligence to play practical jokes on the not-so-nice adults in her life. The story has heart, humour and emotional truth to it; a trend prevalent in all of Dahl’s novels, which continues to draw new audiences to his writing. The iconic 1996 film directed by Danny DeVito became a cult classic, and the musical adaptation has risen through the ranks as one of the most popular shows in the West End. Matilda is an unpredictable, imaginative, heart-warming story that never gets old and one you should definitely read if you haven’t already.