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September 12, 2016

Happy 100th Birthday, Roald Dahl!

Posted by Rebecca M
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Today, Tuesday, September 13th, marks the 100th birthday of beloved author Roald Dahl. Dahl brought us masterpieces like CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, THE BFG and our favorite bookworm, MATILDA --- all while teaching us the importance of creativity and imagination. In celebration of Dahl, we're posting some blog posts every Tuesday of September to share with all of you Dahlphiles --- who are fluent in gobblefunk. Last week, we started by sharing some fun facts about Dahl and his most popular books.

This week, we decided to wish a gloriumptious birthday to the world's best storyteller himself by asking our Kidsreads reviewers and readers to tell us some of their favorite things about Roald Dahl. From childhood birthday parties to late-night reading, they shared all of their favorite Dahl moments below.

Be sure to check back next week for another Dahl-ightful post and, in the meantime, click here to head over to Roald Dahl's official website, where you can learn about upcoming celebrations and events across the country. We're so excited to invite you all into the frothbuggling, whoopsy wiffling, and jumpsquiffling world of Roald Dahl!


Dahl's books stick with you. His work for young adults is unlike a lot of other children's fiction, and has become the de facto standard for so much of the YA stuff we read today. I think kids flock to his work because he doesn't condescend to them --- he treats his young readers with great respect by showing them the darkness of the world, and entertains them by doing so in a light way. --- Killian Walsh

It all started with MATILDA. Although my eight-year-old self had already been devouring piles of books (much like the aforementioned protagonist), this compelling novel would spur an appetite for more of Dahl’s books. It soon became my mission to read every Roald Dahl book that my elementary school library had to offer --- and read I did. From the grotesquely comical THE TWITS, to the lovable THE BFG, to the lesser known THE VICAR OF NIBBLESWICKE, to the terrifying WITCHES, I found delight in every cleverly constructed character, plot and fantastical twist. It is only in my recent adult foray into psychology that I’ve come to fully appreciate the themes of many of these books. I think that, as a child, I must have related to Matilda’s and James’s and Charlie’s profound resilience in the face of cruelty and injustice. If Roald Dahl has taught me anything (other than the fact that beards can be harbingers for disease), he has emphasized the power of imagination and humor in even the most adverse circumstances. Happy Birthday, Roald Dahl! --- Liz Corley.

I first read Roald Dahl's autobiographical BOY at the age of nine, and it influenced me in a very unexpected way. At one point, Dahl recalls freezing nights spent warming cold toilet seats with his own bottom, a task he was often assigned by his superiors. He tells us how he would read entire novels sitting there, and I found inspiration and later solidarity in this. THE WITCHES, THE BFG, THE TWITS, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY --- these and countless other books have all done their time next to my toilet, and I wholeheartedly thank Roald Dahl for freeing me from all the shame and guilt that comes with disappearing in a shared familial bathroom for an hour or more. Because of him, I am a proud potty reader --- cold butts and warm hearts forever. --- Anushka Giri

Roald Dahl meant a lot to me growing up. I loved reading all of his books, including, but not limited to, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, MATILDA and CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Reading MATILDA taught me that no matter how cruel the world could be, that there was power both through learning and reading and that no matter how cruel the world could be, you could always succeed. I also loved reading CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, because it made me smile to think that there was almost a magical experience when making candy. As a kid it's funny to imagine that candy could have that process done. As a child, candy always seems as the most amazing item in the world. As an adult, I sometimes still think that. Candy makes it seem that everything in the world would be okay. That's what Roald Dahl's CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY also meant to me when I read it. This novel also helped teach me the importance of loyalty no matter what your situation may be. Finally, I loved JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, (and saw the movie a million times as a child) because it showed how you could win, even if the odds are against you and that there are people who will look out for you in the most unlikely places. --- Hasnah Farraj-Doleh

In fourth grade at Birchwood Elementry we had an amazing teacher named Yolanda Kobrynowitz. It was her first year teaching and when she introduced the class to Ronald Dahl's books I was instantly hooked. Before reading Dahl, I had stayed back a year because I had trouble reading. Now you can't pull a book out of my hands if your life depended on it! Ronald Dahl's books are the reason I became such an avid reader. I am about two weeks from being 34 and he is still one of my most cherished authors and treasured memories. These are books that both the very young and very old can relate to and enjoy. I have two favorites because I can't just pick one but MATILDA and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH are a tie for first. There are actual life lessons in these and Dahl's other books that you don't often find in newer books; ways to deal with what life hands you and, as a child, to learn that your problems aren't just yours alone. --- Shannon Kukan

My fifth-grade teacher read THE BFG to my class when I was 10. Fifth grade was a year of growing up for me --- the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, there was a death in my family, and the terrifying thought of middle school next year loomed large. Reading had always been an escape for me, and I loved listening to my teacher read aloud to us. Our classroom seemed so warm and cozy during those winter afternoons, so safe and fun and rooted in childhood. THE BFG fit that atmosphere perfectly. A sweet and shy little girl, a funny and benevolent giant with his own delightful brand of English, and a happy ending --- Roald Dahl to me that year meant comfort and familiarity. He was our BFG. No fear or anger from the adult world could reach us between the pages of that book. --- Rebecca Hawkins

Roald Dahl's writing has never diminished over time. His name is synonymous with good writing and amazingly imaginative worlds with extraordinary characters. As a kid I was captivated by CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY as well as MATILDA. They fulfilled my childhood fantasies and are the foundation of my childhood as well as my reading passion. Thank you for helping me to discover this amazing world of books and happy birthday, Roald Dahl! --- Amanda Melfi

Of all the phizz-whizzing, whoopsy whiffling, splunkingly wonderful writers of my childhood, Roald Dahl is simply irreplaceable, inimitable and forever dear to my heart. No matter how excited I am that kids love to read through whatever Captain Underpants or Wimpy Kid they find, I will always, always encourage them to pick up Dahl at some point as well. The sheer imagination! I found it in Lewis Carroll, and through a few other whimsical wordsmiths, but nothing really compares to Dahl. The way he plays with words is quite genius and rhythmic, and inspired me to think outside boxes, to revel in the wonder of language before I knew what I was doing. Yet there's so much more, as well. His lovely child-characters experience such pain and trauma --- such starkly authentic, ghastly realities such as orphanhood, poverty and abuse. He never shied away from this, from the cruelty of Matilda's parents, the devastation of Charlie's hunger, the terrible threats of the Witches, the Twits and Mr. Fox's farmers. His literary love is tough at times, with the shadowy terrors of a fairytale, but I always feel safe with his protagonists. He saw the pain that even children endure, and he created stories of love and wonder from them. He taught compassion, creativity, the power of dreams and the comfort of friendship, all wrapped in stories that celebrated silliness and never, ever refused to take the concerns of a child seriously. I love the way Dahl writes for children --- the way he writes to children. He knows kids are weird, and gross, and brilliant, and capable of understanding some serious stuff, as well as some seriously cool stuff. I loved his adult short stories too, I loved HENRY SUGAR and I loved the side of him we see in BOY, but nothing, to me, will replace his children's books. I will also forever be grateful for how he wrote little girls. I believe his little girls are quite revolutionary, in that they are written as full and complex children --- sometimes brilliant, sometimes ordinary, sometimes quite both, and never boxed into the princess or the damsel. Roald Dahl changed the way I saw myself. He made me unapologetic --- even celebratory! --- about how much I love to read, how much I love words. If I'm ever disillusioned about life or literature, I turn back to Dahl. I know, no matter what, his works will be be waiting, with wit and whimsy and weirdness. --- Maya Gittelman

When I was younger, I had a Roald Dahl party on my half-birthday because my actual birthday is in the summer when everyone is away. So it was the middle of January when I had a sleepover at my house with all of my friends. Somehow, I'd found a Roald Dahl cookbook, which I borrowed from my school's library. All of the food was Roald Dahl-themed. I can't remember everything we had but JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH juice sticks out in my mind, and my cake was the Bruce Bogtrotter cake from MATILDA. It was so insanely rich that nobody could have more than a sliver of it. We watched The Witches and Willy Wonka, turned my house into a haunted house for some reason, and in the morning my friends went home with copies of THE TWITS, THE BFG, THE WITCHES, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, BOY, MATILDA and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH in their goodie bags. --- Amanda Hagurrtee.

I feel like I missed out on Roald Dahl books as a child. I was a late reader and bypassed right into YA --- with some exceptions like Harry Potter. But I loved the movie adaptations of his books. Matilda was one of my favorite movies as a kid. I would watch it over and over again with my mom, there was always a ton of laughter. The James and the Giant Peach movie definitely scared me and grossed me out. It might have been the Tim Burton aesthetic, but the idea of the inside of any fruit is strange --- let alone a giant one. I loved both CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY adaptations and went on the hunt for golden tickets in chocolate bars for a while after seeing the films --- what I wouldn’t give to swim in a river of chocolate! Happy Birthday, Roald Dahl! P.S. I promise to read your books soon! --- Dana Cuadrado

I share a birthday with Roald Dahl!!!!!! He would be 100 today. My absolute favorite childhood author who always wrote the children invincible, the magic real, and the adults as the bad guys. I am honored to share a birthday with you. Here are some of my favorite Dahl quotes:

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.” "A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men."

Don't gobblefunk around with words.”

I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” --- Gabriella Abrao