Days and dates are declared for various purposes all the time. Of course, there are the big holidays but there are other often lesser known dates of importance that come about. One such date was September 13th. What was special about that day you ask? It was Roald Dahl Day. It would have been his 100th birthday. I was inspired on September 13th when the New York City Public Library celebrated Roald Dahl Day. A performance of some of the members of the Broadway cast sharing the story of Matilda popped up on my Facebook feed. This is the livestream of their performance:
As I watched these talented performers, I began to think about the stories I had experienced by this gifted storyteller.
So, who was Roald Dahl? He was a British author born in the United Kingdom in 1916 and died in 1990. You can read more about his life and works at http://www.biography.com/people/roald-dahl-9264648
Still not sure who this might be? Here are some character names you might recognize – Willy Wonka, Charlie, James, Matilda, Sophie, Mr. Fox, and my all-time favorite the BFG. You may be more familiar with the film versions of his stories which include James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and most recently The BFG. Matilda was also made into a musical and there are junior musicals for James and the Giant Peach and Willy Wonka.
I remember being a young undergrad at WCU and taking Children’s Literature. That was my first experience with Roald Dahl. I am not sure they had Roald Dahl in my school library when I was growing up. The very first book I ever read by Mr. Dahl was The BFG. What a story! I have not seen the movie yet, but I hope it can compare to what I pictured in my mind as I read about the witching hour, Sophie being whisked away to Giant Country, and the descriptions of the giants. I can say that the many times I have used this story in a classroom setting over the years I truly learned the magic of captivating children with a fascinating story.
Mr. Dahl not only created memorable characters with an action packed story, he also gave a way to address, ummmm, let’s say certain body functions that can cause a ruckus in a group of youngsters. You see, for the BFG burping was an atrocity but whizpopping was glorious. Read the quote below and I am thinking you can infer what whizpopping might be.
“A whizzpopper!” cried the BFG, beaming at her. “Us giants is making whizzpoppers all the time! Whizzpopping is a sign of happiness. It is music in our ears! You surely is not telling me that a little whizzpopping if forbidden among human beans?”
Did you notice that he calls us “human beans” instead of human beings?
The BFG has many memorable characteristics, but one that stands out is how he speaks. He tends to get things mixed up. He tells Sophie,
“Words,” he said, “is oh such a twitch-tickling problem to me all my life.”
Talk about tongue twisters! I always had to practice a little for this read aloud.
He makes sure Sophie understands he can mix things up a bit when he tells her,
“What I mean and what I say is two different things,” the BFG announced rather grandly.”
I wonder if this is how some politicians rationalize their spoken words?
A slightly lesser known work by Roald Dahl is The Twits. It is much shorter than the 200 or so pages of The BFG and would likely be a nice choice for a middle elementary student with its 76 pages. Although, the lesson in this quick read could work wonders for some tweens and teens I know.
Mr. & Mrs. Twit are definitely an odd pair. They are beyond nasty physically, mentally, and emotionally. They spend their time trying to find ways to be mean to each other and those around them. Now, Mr. Twit does drink beer. The first time I read this book I could not imagine using it with a group of children. So, I changed beer to root beer when I read it aloud. Children would figure this out when they read the book on their own and bring it to me and point at the word “beer”. I would reply with something like how could I have read it aloud saying the word beer without causing a ruckus. I explained it was more important to focus on the lessons built into the story rather than Mr. Twit’s drinking preferences. I love the lessons in this story! It shows that it does matter how you treat others. The Golden Rule really does apply.
Mr. Dahl left us with some pretty amazing stories! Check one out at a library near you!
Thank you, Roald Dahl, for introducing me to dream catching, snozzcumbers, frobscottle, Roly-Poly birds, hug tight sticky glue, and the shrinks. Your writing has forever left an impression on me.