Boy: Tales of childhood

…by Roald Dahl.

‘Boy’ is about Roald Dahl’s childhood days in his own words. You might be wondering why I didn’t just say it’s an autobiography.That’s because of what Dahl himself said

An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring details. This is not an autobiogrpahy.

Rather, the book is about events and incidents that occurred during Dahl’s childhood days and that were memorable to him. It starts with his parents, goes through his school days and ends with him getting his first job. There are some hilarious events such as when he put dead mouse in a sweet jar at a shop due to his dislike for the lady who owned the shop or when he faked appendicitis because he was homesick. He also talks about some troubling events such as the beatings he and others received at the hands of teachers throughout school life or when his nose was sliced in an accident or when he had his adenoids out without the use of anasthesia.

Dahl covers events from prep school through to boarding school and finally a public high school. While his boarding school days startout with a Blytonesque feel to them, they are anything but with the mean teachers and headmaster and a nasty Matron. He talks about his family and the holidays they had in Norway. He also describes his mother’s struggles following the death of his father when he was very young. Dahl manages to give readers an insight into why some of his characters are the way they are. The mean characters in particular seem to be inspired by some people he came in contact with. The events also explain how he may have got the ideas for his books and how this creative mind works.

All in all, even if Dahl may not call it an autobiography, it is an entertaining one! I give it a rating of 4.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

James and the Giant Peach

…by Roald Dahl.

At the age of four, James Henry Trotter is orphaned and sent to live with his aunts Spiker and Sponge. Once he lives with his mean aunts, James’ life changes from the fun and idyllic times with his parents. His aunts are mean and nasty and put James to work. James leads a miserable life for about 3 years until he experiences something incredible. He meets a strange man who gives him a bag with thousand litte green things in it…magical things which are going to help James not feel miserable any more. Alas! James in his excitement, drops the bag and sees all the green things get sucked into the soil. However, when he wakes up the next morning, something strange is in store for him. A peach tree, that has never borne any peaches, has started to grow one. And it’s no ordinary peach. Rather it is a gigantic one. And when James looks at it at night, he finds an opening into the peach and meets the most unusual creatures in there — a Grasshopper, a Centipede, an Earthworm, a Ladybird, a Spider, a Glowworm and a Silkworm. All giants themselves. And waiting for James to join them. And thus, they embark on the most amazing journey and adventures as the peach leaves the garden.

This book by Dahl brought back memories of my Enid Blyton reading days. There was an essence of strange lands and strange people. With animals and creatures taking a human role, it was very much like the wonderful stories I enjoyed as a child. And the adventures…oh the adventures…they are brilliant! You find yourself smiling through most of the book once the group embarks on their journey. And there are moments of strife where you hold your breath. All in all, a brilliant children’s book by Dahl! I give it a rating of 4.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

The Giraffe and the Pelly and me

…by Roald Dahl.

Billy has a wish. His wish is that a dilapidated and unused wooden house be turned into a sweet-shop. When the house finally gets sold though, it isn’t turned into a sweet shop as he hoped. Rather, it is now the premises of the Ladderless Window Cleaning Company. Owned by a giraffe, a pelican and a monkey. Billy befriends these wonderful creatures and together they manage to secure a job with the Duke of Hampshire — the richest man in England. During their cleaning, they manage to help the Duke in ways he could never have imagined.

It’s a story about friendship and kindness and how one good turn deserves another. Dahl continues to portray animals in the best and kindest way possible as well as young boys. Apparently, Dahl values kindness as a trait in people and you can see that in most of his characters as well as the lack of it in some of his ‘villains’. Yet another beautifully penned story that brings to life the extraordinary. Dahl does have a way with words!

I give it a rating of 4.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

George’s Marvellous Medicine

…by Roald Dahl.

George Kranky lives with his parents Mr and Mrs Kranky and his maternal Grandma. Unlike most grandmas, George’s Grandma is a mean and nasty old lady who only thinks about herself and wants all the attention. Nothing is good enough for this grumpy, grumbling, grouchy lady. And so George decides to teach her a lesson. By making a concoction of his own medicine to replace the one she normally has. This medicine is made of ingredients lying all around the house. And the consequences are surprising! As Dahl warns kids in the beginning, Do not make this at home!

Once again, this is a creatively woven story that appeals to the rule-breaker in all of us! I’m sure we all go through phases where we don’t like someone and wish we could teach themĀ  a lesson. Through George, we all get to live this! Once again, I am amazed at Dahl’s creative genius. He is able to get into a child’s mind so perfectly. Once again, a book I would recommend for you to read to your kids. Or with them. Or to read yourself and re-visit your childhood!

I rate it a 4.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

The Twits

…by Roald Dahl.

Mr and Mrs Twit are two disgusting individuals. Mr Twit has a long shaggy beard and Mrs Twit has an ugly face due to a lifetime of being nasty and having nasty thoughts. They smell. They don’t wash. They fight. They play tricks on one another. They hate children. They trap birds to eat. And they have a family of four monkeys caged in their backyard to do their bidding. Eventually, the monkeys (Mugglewump and family) with the help of the Roly-Poly Bird and other birds get their revenge on the Twits in a very amusing way…giving them a taste of their own nasty medicine!

This is possibly the funniest Dahl book I’ve read so far and you can bet kids are going to love it. His description of the Twits, particularly Mr Twit is so disgustingly hilarious, you can practically hear kids squealing with delight and disgust. And his insight into some human characteristics is quite amazing. I loved his description of Mrs Twit as being ugly but not because she was born ugly. Rather, as Dahl puts it “If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face” [p. 7]. And following that is a beautiful description of how a light shines out of a person with good thoughts despite physically not being attractive. I think it’s a wonderful thing to teach kids — that beauty is from within! And a special mention must be made to the illustrator Quentin Blake as well. His pictures are pretty funny and add to sensational writing. Finally, Dahl’s creativity shines through once again with terms such as ‘Muggle-wump’, ‘Hugtight glue’, Roly-Poly bird and a few others. It’s a brilliant book for a laugh…even as an adult!

I rate it a 5.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Fantastic Mr. Fox

…by Roald Dahl.

Mr Fox lives with his wife Mrs Fox and four children. He manages to feed his family by raiding the farms of Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Three mean farmers who keep chicken, duck and geese and turkey and cider respectively. Boggis, Bunce and Bean finally decide to end Mr Fox’s thieving ways and try several things. But in the end, Mr Fox along with his family and friends manages to outwit the three men.

There is no doubt that young children will enjoy this book. It has everything — action, adventure, humour and a moral as well. This book was adapted into a movie in 2009 as well. I haven’t seen the movie but while reading the book, I found myself holding my breath for Mr Fox and his family! It’s once again, a brilliantly crafted tale that should be read with and to kids. I rate it a 4.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Esio Trot

…by Roald Dahl.

This children’s book by Roald Dahl features Mr Hoppy who is secretly in love with his downstairs neighbour, the widowed Mrs Silver. Unfortunately for him, Mrs Silver knows nothing about his feelings as she is too busy with her pet tortoise, Alfie. But then, Mr Hoppy finds a way in when Mrs Silver asks his help to make Alfie grow. It’s Mr Hoppy to the rescue all the way to a happy ending.

In this cute book for kids again, Dahl’s imagination really jumps out at you. The magical words passed on by Mr Hoppy to Mrs Silver to help Alfie grow is so very creative! And the manner in which Mr Hoppy helps Alfie grow. All in all, a humourous book with a very sweet and gentle touch which children would definitely fall in love with.

I give it a rating of 4.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!