Going Solo – by Roald Dahl

29 12 2018

Having read the school years part of Roald Dahl’s autobiography, Boy, in September, I thought I’d try and finish the other half before the year was out!

This picks up where Boy left off, Roald heads out to work for Shell in what is now Tanzania. After a short while WW2 breaks out and after some work in that country, he goes to Nairobi to enlist in the RAF. From thereon in the book follows him through training, going into war, accidents, and all sorts, all the way through to his return to England.

I learnt so much about the war by reading this, I ignorantly never really knew what went on in Africa in the war, and it really hit home just how little chance of survival there was for those who were fighting. It really seems to me to be a miracle that he survived and that we have all these incredible books he wrote – at the point of war Roald was not an author at all, I’m guessing that comes later, and I’m so glad it did!

Boy, Tales of Childhood – by Roald Dahl

1 10 2018

I read a lot of Roald Dahl’s fiction in 2016, but never got round to Boy or Going Solo. After it popped up in conversation a couple of times lately, I thought it was about time I gave this a go.

He states that it is not an autobiography, but I’m not quite sure why given that that is exactly how I’d describe it! Dahl’s parents were Norwegian though he was born and raised in Wales. The book covers his childhood and teenage years at home and boarding school, up until the age of 20. (When I presume Going Solo must pick up the story).

When he was at boarding school he regularly wrote home to his mother, and she kept everything she ever sent – so in a rather sweet addition, all the writing in the boarding school chapters is interspersed with images of handwritten letters from those times.

It’s funny as you read it, you can see the inspiration for some of his characters and stories as he talks. There was a lady who I’m sure has part of Mrs Twit about her, and then when at school the boys were each sent boxes of chocolate bars to test for Cadbury, which is when he first started thinking about the idea of “inventing rooms” in chocolate factories.

It’s really just a collection of stories from home and school (including an awful incident when he nearly lost his entire nose!), but told in such a warm and I guess child-friendly way. As a Roald Dahl fan I’d definitely recommend this as a way to get to know him better!

Matilda – by Roald Dahl

7 09 2016

I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that this is the last in my Roald Dahl binge, and after this I’ll be going back to books that take a little longer to read!

For this book, I’d not read it but I had seen the film – classic

Matilda is a supernaturally bright little girl, who has parents who literally couldn’t care less about her. I’m honestly surprised they fed her sometimes. When she starts school she has a teacher (Miss Honey) who appreciates and values her, but a headteacher (Mrs Trunchbull) who is scarier than most children’s book baddies.

A theme that runs through most of Roald Dahl’s books which is even more prevalent here is that it’s ok to take revenge on someone (normally an adult) if they are mean and horrible. Matilda finds ways to take revenge on her parents, and also the Trunchbull, and there’s nothing wrong with anything she does!

Some of my favourite one-liners:

  • “There are many things that make a man irritable when he arrives home from work in the evening and a sensible wife will usually notice the storm-signals and will leave him alone until he simmers down.”
  • “If it’s by an American it’s certain to be filth. That’s all they write about.”
  • “I’m afraid men are not always quite as clever as they think they are. You will learn that when you get a bit older, my girl.”
  • “I think Mr C. S. Lewis is a very good writer. But he has one failing. There are no funny bits in his books.”
  • “I cannot for the life of me see why children have to take so long to grow up. I think they do it on purpose.”
  • “My idea of a perfect school, Miss Honey, is one that has no children in it at all.”
  • “Margarine, Matilda thought. She really must be poor.”

In the film Matilda’s “powers” come to light quite early on, and she has all sorts of adventure with them. With her parents, at the Trunchbull’s house, all-sorts. But in the book that’s just one short section at the end. In a way I preferred it that way though; a simpler story but makes the chalkboard stuff way more effective and impressive.


The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me – by Roald Dahl

31 08 2016

Another one that I had actually no clue what it was about! The funny thing is, I’m fairly obsessed with giraffes but have never even associated that obsession with this book!

It’s only about 70 pages, so I read it in one sitting. Billy notices the old sweet shop has been bought out by a window cleaning company, which just so happens to be run by a giraffe, a pelican (so *that’s* what a Pelly is!) and a monkey (he sings a song about them which includes the title of the book, so he is “me”). They get a job cleaning the windows of the Duke of Hampshire’s rather large house…. any more and I’d be giving the main drama away as it’s so short, so I’ll just leave you with the rather charming ending:

We have tears in our eyes
As we wave our goodbyes,
We so loved being with you, we three.
So do please now and then
Come and see us again,
The Giraffe and the Pelly and me.

All you do is to look
At a page in this book
Because that’s where we always will be.
No book ever ends
When it’s full of your friends
The Giraffe and the Pelly and me.

the giraffe and the pelly and me

The Witches – by Roald Dahl

30 08 2016

I really wasn’t looking forward to reading this book – as a child I vaguely remember watching the film and pretty fairly terrified, but it’s part of the list so had to be read!

It wasn’t too bad in the end. The tale of a little boy who’s Grandmamma teaches him about witches and what to look out for, so when they accidentally come across their annual convention, they hatch a plan to get revenge for all the children those witches have destroyed. Because witches hate children!

The good news is that Dahl gives us the things to look for to spot witches, so we can be on our guard!

  • A REAL WITCH is certain always to be wearing gloves when you meet her… because she doesn’t have finger-nails. Instead of finger-nails she has thin curvy claws, like a cat, and she wears the gloves to hide them.
  • A REAL WITCH is always bald… A REAL WITCH always wears a wig to hide her baldness.
  • Witches have slightly larger nose-holes than ordinary people… A REAL WITCH has the most amazing powers of smell.
  • The eyes of a REAL WITCH are different from yours and mine. Look in the middle of each eye where there is normally a little black dot. If she is a witch the black dot will keep changing colour, and you will see fire and you will see ice dancing right in the very centre of the coloured dot.
  • Witches never have toes… The feet have square ends with no toes on them at all.
  • Their spit is blue.

And here are some of my favourite lines from the book.

  • “In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES.”
  • “I am not, of course, tellng you for one second that your teacher actually is a witch. All I am saying is that she might be one.”
  • “You can’t go round pulling at the hair of every lady you meet, even if she is wearing loves. Just you try it and see what happens.”
  • “Children should never have baths, it’s a dangerous habit.”
  • “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like so long as somebody loves you.”

the witches

The BFG – by Roald Dahl

20 08 2016

This is a very strange book. It’s also a very good book!

The first thing you notice is easily the language. The BFG never went to school, and so can’t speak properly; it’s a mixture of grammatical mess (lots of “you is”, “I is”, etc), using the wrong words, and using words that aren’t words at all! To mark Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday this year they’ve released a dictionary of all the vocabulary he created, and I think that most of it must come from the BFG – he’s incredible with language, quite the wordsmith!

Sophie wakes up one night and sees a giant walking down the street. He spots that she’s awake and so grabs her out of bed in the orphanage so she can’t tell others, but it turns out he’s harmless, lovely in fact, and they start to form a plan to save the world from the giants that are dangerous, going out and eating children every night!

We meet the Queen in this book too, I mean, what more could you want from a piece of literature?!

I’ve picked out some of my favourite quotes

“Obviously it was not a human. But it was definitely a person.”

“‘The matter with human beans is that they absolutely refusing to believe in anything unless they is seeing it right in front of their own schnozzles.'”

“‘I do not approve of murder,’ the Queen said”

“‘That’s why they always put two blank pages at the back of the atlas. They’re for new countries. You’re meant to fill them in yourself.”

the bfg

George’s Marvellous Medicine – by Roald Dahl

10 08 2016

Another very short one! after this they get a bit longer again so I won’t be spamming my blog so much!

I read this one quite a bit as a kid as we got a free copy with our teabags or cereal or something like that, but all I could really remember was the lists and lists of things that went into the concoction – I didn’t really remember the plot at all.

George is creating a medicine to feed to his horrible Grandma. Roald Dahl really does write awful people well, people that you don’t even feel bad about hating because there’s not an ounce of good in them! The medicine is filled with all he can find in the bathroom, his mum’s dressing table, the laundry room, the shed and the garage (but absolutely nothing from the medicine cabinet – because *that* would be considered going too far!).

The first batch does amazing things, but trying to reproduce it, each batch does slightly different things as they test them on their farm animals.

Utterly ridiculous but still fun. At least the book opens with a warning to children not to try this at home!


The Twits – by Roald Dahl

8 08 2016

This is one of my least favourite books by Roald Dahl. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it! Just not as much as the rest.

I’ve realised in the last couple of books particularly that Dahl uses a lot of Americanisms. “Sneakers” for trainers, “pants” for trousers, and the like, very peculiar.

The book is about a couple, Mr & Mrs Twit, who really, really, *really* hate each other. The first half of the book is just them trying to one-up each other’s pranks and get revenge on each other! Granted, some of these are very clever. Particularly Mr Twit adding tiny discs of wood to the bottom of Mrs Twit’s walking stick and chair legs each night so she gradually thinks she’s shrinking 🙂

The second half improves though, when the monkey’s they keep in a cage in the garden form a plan to sort Mr and Mrs Twit out once and for all!

My favourite bit of the book, however, comes right near the beginning when we’re introduced to Mr & Mrs Twit.

“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

Vile as it is, there’s a lot in it that’s very clever 🙂

the twits

Danny the Champion of the World – by Roald Dahl

5 08 2016

A few years ago I started reading Roald Dahl’s books in publication order, alternating them between my “proper reading”, but somehow they started to fall by the wayside.

This year would have been Dahl’s 100th birthday, and my friend told me about a reading challenge she’s doing – to read all his children’s books before his birthday, 13th September. She was telling me how she was reading this book the same week that I read the tweet below, so when I discovered that it was also the next of his books I was due to read, I realised it was time to start up the series again!

It’s a beautiful story of Danny and his dad, rekindling his dad’s former hobby of poaching. Sounds simple enough, but their relationship is lovely, and it still contains a whole load of Dahl’s wackiness – how did he even think of sewing up raisins with a needle and thread?!

I’d never read this book, I didn’t have a clue where the story was going, and yet still loved it. It’s very much the good guys vs the bad guys, and as a children’s book obviously the good will win out, that’s hardly a spoiler, but the story as it goes remains nicely unpredictable.

The other slightly weird thing that happens is that Danny’s dad tells Danny the story of the BFG one evening. I’ve never read that one either, but it’s a bit further down my list (which means he hadn’t written the full book yet when he woke this one) so I’ll have to wait – maybe the DVD of the new film will be out by then!


danny the champion of the world

Esio Trot – by Roald Dahl

24 01 2016

The BBC did a lovely adaptation of this last Christmas, which I re-watched on iPlayer the other day, and remembered that a while back, I’d been working through Roald Dahl’s books, but somewhere that fizzled out, and this is one I never read. Having finished another book this afternoon, this one I read in probably five minutes or less, but it’s lovely.

To be honest, I much preferred the book to the TV version, lovely as it was. The TV version added in unnecessary complications in the plot, and extra characters which I guess allowed them to lengthen it to 90min, but the concept is beautifully simple, and the book works wonderfully.

Mr Hoppy is in love with Mrs Silver who lives in the flat below him, but is too shy to tell her. When he finds out that she would just love her pet tortoise to grow a bit, he comes up with a plan to gradually swap him up in size, bit by bit over several weeks, while she thinks it’s the work of some magic words he’s given her – too cute!

esio trot