When I was a kid, Roald Dahl was one of my favorite writers. His books were imaginative, funny, and had just the right amount of bite. That is to say, Dahl’s books are usually about children (and sometimes animals) who get themselves in terrible trouble. His stories are populated with wicked adults, crafty critters, and all manner of monsters. But, I always found this empowering, as I watched the heroes and heroines of each story take each challenge as it came their way, and triumph over it in the end.
If you were to ask me what my all-time favorite Roald Dahl book was, it would be a pretty close choice between two. But, I think the winning spot would have to go to The BFG. I read this book more times than I can count, and even as an adult, I still pull out my copy every couple of years to read it again. Sophie lives in an orphanage. One night, since she can’t sleep, she peers out the window and sees a sinister sight: a giant, walking up and down the street, looking into windows. The giant sees her and snatches her away. But, instead of eating her (because giants love nothing more than eating tasty “human beans”), the Big Friendly Giant (BFG) becomes her friend and protector, and the two soon concoct a plan to stop the horrible man-eating giants who are planning to attack England.
My other favorite Roald Dahl story is James and the Giant Peach. When James accidentally drops a bag full of magic crystals, something very strange begins to happen. First, the dead tree in the middle of the yard begins to grow again, producing a peach so huge that he can climb right inside. And then, many of the bugs from around his home, including a spider, a grasshopper, a centipede, and an earthworm grow and change, becoming human-sized and able to talk. All onboard the giant peach, James and his new friends set off on a journey to America, where the boy believes he’ll finally find some wonderful friends to love him.
The Enormous Crocodile decides that he wants to eat a nice, juicy child for lunch. His friends, the other jungle animals, are horrified, so while the crocodile boasts about each of his clever plots and schemes, the rest of them craft their own counter-plans to thwart him. The crocodile may not learn his lesson, but readers will be pleased to see that he gets exactly what he deserves in the end.
Kids, don’t try this at home! When George’s grouchy grandma becomes grouchier than usual, it becomes clear that her usual medicine is not enough to cure her. Her clever grandson slips her a taste of George’s Marvelous Medicine, a concoction he created himself, that has surprising side-effects for the mean old woman. When he attempts to recreate his potion, however, he can’t, and each new batch does stranger and stranger things to whoever tastes it.
We’ll wrap up this list with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Charlie’s family is very poor. But, their luck takes a turn when Willie Wonka announces that he’s reopening his famous chocolate factory, and five lucky guests will be able to join him for a very special tour. To be selected, you must find a golden ticket hidden inside of a Wonka candy bar. Charlie is delighted to discover the fifth and final ticket, joining a gaggle of ill-mannered children for the coveted tour, including the gluttonous Augustus, and television-obsessed Mike. The children are in for the time of their lives, but no one realizes what Wonka has in store for those who fail to follow his rules.
If you enjoyed this book, consider checking out the sequel: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.