Celebrating Roald Dahl Day

Roald Dahl's children's books continue to be popular today. Pic: Neil Hanna
Roald Dahl's children's books continue to be popular today. Pic: Neil Hanna

The BFG, Danny the Champion of the World and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – do any of these ring a bell?

If so, you will, like me, be a fan of Roald Dahl whose birthday we are celebrating today (September 13.)

Roald Dahl Day celebrates the creative genius of an imaginative writer whose fictional tales have brought wonder to children everywhere.

His own story started in 1916 in Cardiff, Wales, where he was born to Norwegian parents Sofie Magdalene Dahl and Harald Dahl. He lost both his sister and his father at the age of three, but his mother chose to stay in Wales so Dahl could be educated in British schools.

From there he went on to study at Repton School in Derbyshire, where it is thought he got the original idea for one of his most important works.

Cadbury regularly sent chocolate bars to the school to be tested by the students, which led to Roald having dreams of creating a chocolate bar so delicious that Mr. Cadbury would praise it. It is thought this is where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came from.

Dahl went on to be a Fighter Ace during WWII, and had a long and distinguished career in which he fought in some of the most significant air battles of the war.

However, he started experiencing severe headaches that prevented him from flying, and spent the rest of his career working as a diplomat, writer, and intelligence officer.

It was during this time that he wrote The Gremlins his first children’s book, and from there on, he continued writing, creating some of the most popular stories in history.

One of Dahl’s books I really enjoyed reading as a youngster was The BFG.

It has recently been made into a feature-length fantasy adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg.

The BFG (short for Big Friendly Giant) was written in 1982 and is about a young orphaned girl named Sophie who is discovered by the BFG and is taken away by him to the homeland of Giant Country. The BFG nightly blows bottled dreams into the bedrooms of children. He explains that other types of giants eat humans, mostly children. But the BFG is different because he refuses to eat people or steal food from humans and instead he survives on a foul-tasting vegetable known as a snozzcumber.

The language in this book is very colourful and descriptive – I particularly liked ‘frobscottle’ (a fizzy drink) and ‘whizpopping’ (noisy flatulence) – this is why the story was popular when I was growing up in the 1980s and continues to be well-read in 2016.

Danny the Champion of The World is another book I remember reading at school. It was written in 1975 and tells the story of Danny and his father who live in a caravan. His father repairs cars while poaching pheasants on the side.

However, my personal favourite book of Dahl’s has to be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The children’s book was published in 1964 and tells the story of young Charlie Bucket who wins a golden ticket to go inside the chocolate factory of eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka.

I love the idea of a young boy living in poverty, who – against all the odds – manages to find a golden ticket in a bar of chocolate he couldn’t have afforded until discovering some money in the street.

The other characters in the book are fantastic too - Mike Teavee, Augustus Gloop, Violet Beauregarde and Veruca Salt. They are all removed from the factory in hilarious and painful ways (my favourite ejection being Violet’s – when she is rolled out after ballooning into a giant blueberry).

The most mysterious ones in the book though are the Oompa Loompas who help Mr Wonka keep the factory running in working order. I loved their little rhymes as a child and found them fascinating.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is very colourful in its description – from the detail of the sweets and the layout of the rooms inside the factory and I think that is probably why I loved the story growing up and why I still do to this day.