To go nicely with Quentin Blake, the first person who popped to mind when I got to ‘R’ was Roald Dahl.
Roald Dahl was a staple of my childhood, much like many other children, I think. I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, George’s Marvellous Medicine, Matilda, and loads of others. We had many of Dahl’s books on our childhood bookshelves, and they were read over and over again.
When I think about what it was in particular that made Roald Dahl so enjoyable, I think it was his combination of humour and disgustingness. The vile other children in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Augustus Gloop et al. – both had fantastic humorous names and got their horrific comeuppances. Dahl presented a world where the bad guys were like your worst school peers, and they got their just desserts in the way you hoped would happen in real life.
When I was about nine, I was given an activity kit to do with James and the Giant Peach. I can’t remember what it entailed, but I remember the day it showed up in my pigeon hole at school, and how delighted I was by it. I loved exploring the book further, and treasured that activity kit.
But Dahl’s books were scary too – the BFG is terrifying, and I remember being pretty freaked out by the movie. The idea that giants eat children from their beds? I don’t think you’d get away with writing a middle grade book about that these days! But Dahl had a way of finding the magic from the horror, and the BFG was always one of my favourites.
My little brother and sister are almost of an age where they’ll start enjoying Dahl’s work. I’m looking forwards to them discovering all the joy as I did all those years ago.