Like so many of my peers, I was introduced to the writing of children’s author Roald Dahl when I entered elementary school. He was a popular author for teachers during read-alouds, mostly because the characters and worlds he created were so appealing to us as kids. I can remember classmates begging our teachers for “just one more chapter” upon being told that read-aloud was over for the day. Novels such as James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and The BFG were particular favorites in the classroom.
I’ve read a lot of Dahl’s books over the years, some of them many times, and it’s extremely hard to choose a favorite. Part of me feels like I should choose Matilda, since I really relate to her passion for reading. The BFG is also a strong contender, especially since it was the first Roald Dahl book that I ever encountered. One of the reasons it is so hard to choose a favorite is because Roald Dahl was such a wonderful storyteller.
Ultimately, if I had to choose a favorite among Dahl’s books, I would probably choose The Witches. The first time I ever read The Witches was as an adult, and I found myself completely engrossed in the story.
The narrator of The Witches is a young boy who is living with his grandmother in Norway after his parents are killed in a car accident. His grandmother, who claims to have known at least five children who have disappeared because of witches, teaches him how to spot a witch…a lesson which becomes very valuable when the pair returns to the narrator’s home in England. As it happens, there is a convention of witches in town, and they are planning to get rid of all of the children by turning them into mice…and then killing them!
While this book has some moments that might be kind of scary for a very young child, I found it delightful to read as an adult. The characters were interesting, and I particularly loved the descriptions of the witches. One of my favorite moments in the book is when the narrator is discussing the difficulty of spotting a witch. At one point, he makes the suggestion that the reader’s teacher (who is supposedly reading the book to a classroom full of children) could be a witch, following this assertion by saying, “I am not, of course, telling you for one second that your teacher actually is a witch. All I am saying is that she might be one” (Dahl 10). I found this moment extremely funny, since it definitely would have made me think twice had any of my teachers read this to me as a young child.
If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Roald Dahl’s birthday, I can think of no better option than picking up a favorite Dahl book from your childhood. That’s how I will be spending my afternoon.
Although, if you live anywhere near The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden, you might consider checking out the Roald Dahl Day Celebrations tomorrow, September 14th. If, like me, you live nowhere near the museum, you can still check out the museum’s galleries from home with the website’s virtual tour. Clicking on the link directly beneath the virtual tour will allow you to see more images from the museum. I’d love to go just to check out the gift shop in more detail!
Happy Birthday, Roald Dahl!