Saturday, September 15, 2012

All Things Dahl

13th September was Roald Dahl's birthday, and we at Zealot Readers would like to pay him a tribute. Here are two books that are brimful with fun facts that are as wacky as his books.

pic courtesy flipkart.
Spotty Powder and other Splendiferous Secrets
Compiled and illustrated by Quentin Blake
Publisher: Puffin (Pocket Money Puffin series)
Ages 6+

The book begins with a quote from his book The Minpins“Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most likely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” 

This should be the guiding light for all who associate themselves with children’s books. Or any books at all. Or anything that raises one above the mundane. As Dahl’s books certainly do. He was a keen observer of his surroundings, human or otherwise, and each of the twelve chapters begins with his essay on the month or season.

Do you know…

…that there were as many as ten naughty children to feature in his most famous book Charlie and the Chocolate factory? These were to have names like Bertie Upside and Herpes Trout. Or that the Oompa-Loompas were to be called Whipple-Scrumpets?

…that the Roald Dahl-Quentin Blake partnership began in 1976, quite late in Dahl’s career, and that initially Blake was nervous about illustrating for such a famous writer?

…that Dahl kept two notebooks in which he pinned down any stray idea that entered his head, and that almost all his books came from these years later?

…that strange though it may seem to his readers, his English teacher at boarding school had written him off? “This boy is an indolent and illiterate member of the class.” “Vocabulary negligible, sentences malconstructed. Ideas limited.”

…that in the churchyard at Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, big friendly giant footprints lead to Roald Dahl’s grave?

pic courtesy flipkart
D is for Dahl
A gloriumptious A-Z guide to the world of Roald Dahl
Compiled by Wendy Cooling
Illustrations Quentin Blake
Publisher: Puffin books
Ages 8+

It begins with a smudged copy of the Dahl family tree on page 1. The next 149 pages are cram-filled with alphabetically arranged snippets that will warm the heart of even the most reluctant of readers. All things Dahl : personal life, his books, quirks, his literary associates, his working style, his opinions about everything he came across- it is all there, in bite-sizes, and embellished with the zany illustrations of his friend and long-time illustrator, Quentin Blake.

Some our favourites are the Random Roald Facts in boxes:

He wrote his first ever story at the age of 10, titled “Kumbak II” about a machine that could tune in to conversations from the past.

From an essay written by him at school, describing his teacher: “He’s a short man with a face like a fried elderberry, and a moustache which closely resembles the African jungle.” On his teacher's cane: “It wasn’t simply an instrument for beating you. It was a weapon for wounding.” Do you see Miss Agatha Trunchbull from Matilda?

No wonder his teachers were vexed with him!

Here is a review of a proper biography, Fantastic Mr Dahl, written by Michael Rosen, on Guardian Children's Books.

Crossposted at Saffrontree.


  1. Something different after Harry Potter week. Thanks to Vaishali :)

    Thanks for this lovely post on Roald Dahl here.