Top 5: Roald Dahl Books
Given that today is the Official Roald Dahl Day, I thought this would be a good time to do my top five wondercrump Roald Dahl reads. JOIN ME WON’T YOU.
When I was in my final year of my English Lit degree at University (of Birmingham- big up the brum WHEYYYYYYY), I specialised in Children’s Literature. This basically meant I didn’t have to read any Jane Austen (and oh how I whooped. I know she’s kind of a big deal and everything but she’s a bit bonnet-y and giggley for me.) but instead I got to re-read loads of stuff that has shaped my reading attitude and taste from when I was 1p old and critically think about it. It was so indescribably cool (SOME PEOPLE ARE GEEKS. WE’RE DOWN WITH IT). I chose to write a big essay about Roald Dahl. The Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden who are so incredibly passionate and preservative of dear old Dahl’s work so kindly let me visit and inspect their archives. They were filled to the brim with letters, art-work and STUFF from kids over the ages, proclaiming why they j’adored him so much. He was naughty and cheeky and said rude words and told GREAT stories. Kids today still regard him as a hero. And when I say ‘Kids’, I mean me. So in flushbunkingly galumptious celebration of Roald Dahl Day, here my humble top five Roald Reads.
Happy Mischief and Mayhem Day everybody!
I mean, just, utterly terrifying. Beyond belief. Lambs, keep your silence, Elm Street: you ain’t seen a nightmare yet. This is what you should aspire to. Mental witches with square feet, bald heads and talons who trap little girls in paintings and turn little boys into mice are really the main worry for kids. THE GRAND HIGH WITCH MATE! (We used to call our headmistress that when she was being shouty.) Morbidly brilliant. (Massive props to the actress who in the film played the witch channeling the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Childcatcher, who waves chocolate around going, “She can’t…hear you…” I didn’t sleep properly for years. You did a really good job at being scary babe.)
2. The BFG
Is there really a reason needed here? Snozzcumbers vs Frobscottle, Jesus sandals, dream blowing, human beans, whizzpoppers, The Witching Hour, the baddie giant names (the Maidmasher anyone?!) the inclusion of Queen Elizabeth, the animation film starring David Jason as the BeeEffGee himself. That’s enough to warrant a Big Friendly Giant in the top five I think. The language that Dahl created for The BFG was called ‘Gobblefunk’. KEEP YER ELVISH AND YER NADSAT, Gobblefunk is definitely where it’s at. It’s so awesome that the Oxford Dictionary even wrote a blog about it here. Also because Dahl named the little gal after his granddaughter Sophie (these days of modelling/baking/Jamie Cullum fame) who told a story to the museum about how when she was little, her granddad once put her to bed, then climbed up a ladder at the side of the house with a trumpet and pretended to be the BFG, blowing dreams into her bedroom. What a massive lad.
The mouse in the sweet jar.
That is all.
(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this book IMMEDIATELY.)
4. Revolting Rhymes
This massively deserves a place in my top five, mainly because I’ve always been so gay for poetry, but also because the retelling and wicked twists bestowed upon the famous fairy stories always makes me heartily chuckle. They were all written with such a sparkling glint in the eye. Altogether now, ” SHE LICKS HER LIPS,ONE EYELID FLICKERS/SHE WHIPS THE PISTOL FROM HER KNICKERS.” (“Chortle chortle snort snort! HE SAID KNICKERS!!” – said every kid everywhere ever.)
If you don’t what I’m on about, here’s the best out of the bunch:
Red Riding Hood and the Wolf
As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma’s door.
When Grandma opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, “May I come in?”
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
“He’s going to eat me up!” she cried.
And she was absolutely right.
He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, “That’s not enough!
I haven’t yet begun to feel
That I have had a decent meal!”
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
“I’ve got to have a second helping!”
Then added with a frightful leer,
“I’m therefore going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.”
He quickly put on Grandma’s clothes,
(Of course he hadn’t eaten those).
He dressed himself in coat and hat.
He put on shoes, and after that
He even brushed and curled his hair,
Then sat himself in Grandma’s chair.
In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,
“What great big ears you have, Grandma.”
“All the better to hear you with,” the Wolf replied.
“What great big eyes you have, Grandma.”
said Little Red Riding Hood.
“All the better to see you with,” the Wolf replied.
He sat there watching her and smiled.
He thought, I’m going to eat this child.
Compared with her old Grandmamma
She’s going to taste like caviar.
Then Little Red Riding Hood said, “But Grandma,
what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.”
“That’s wrong!” cried Wolf. “Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway.”
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, “Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.”
5. Number five is really difficult. So many deserve a place here. James and his oversized Summer Fruit, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, Matilda reading all her books, Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe, Danny busy championing the world, The FANTASTIC Mr Fox and all his philanthropic actions against Boggis and Bunce and Bean (one fat, one short, one lean), even Mr and Mrs Twit (purely for their Quentin Blake Beards). Yet my last spot goes to an unlikely contender- Mrs Silver and Mr Hoppy in Esio Trot. What a classic love story. Love bringing people together through the love of reptiles. It’s age old. It’s beautiful. SIGH.
So there it is, there’s the top five. Just before I finish, here’s a wee pressie from me to you on Roald Dahl Day- here’s Rik Mayall in the best (and most complained about) Jackanory ever, reading George’s Marvellous Medicine to set you up for a stonkingly brillo day.
Well done Roald. Generation upon generation continue to love deeply and laugh heartily at your creations. Thank you for your brash humour, incomparable individuality and above all else, your utter wickedness. The world continues to love you, you scrumdiddlyumptious old soul. Rest well.
P.S. One favourite naughty poem to end, because I simply couldn’t resist.
A Hand in the Bush
I am a maiden who is forty,
And a maiden I shall stay.
There are some who call me haughty,
But I care not what they say.
I was running the tombola
At our church bazaar today,
And doing it with gusto
In my usual jolly way
When suddenly, I knew not why,
There came a funny feeling
Of something crawling up my thigh!
I nearly hit the ceiling!
A mouse! I thought. How foul! How mean!
How exquisitely tickly!
Quite soon I know I’m going to scream.
I’ve got to catch it quickly.
I made a grab. I caught the mouse,
Now right inside my knickers.
A mouse my foot! It was a HAND!
Great Scott! It was the vicar’s!