Roald Dahl – One of the most popular children’s authors

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Roald Dahl was, and still is, one of the greatest authors in the world. Even though he died in 1990, almost twenty-six years ago, his books are still widely read. Millions of people have read his books since 1943, when the first one, The Gremlins, was published.

Birth

Roald was born on 13 September 1916, to Norwegian businessman, Harald Dahl and his wife, Sofie Hesselberg, the third of five children. He was born in Llandaff, Wales, a small town about 150 miles west of London. Sadly, his eldest sister Astri died of appendicitis at the age of seven in 1919, and his father died two months later of pneumonia. As their house was huge, its maintenance was very expensive. His mother could not afford to live there any more and moved.

First school

In 1922, Roald went to school for the first time, at Llandaff Cathedral School. At the age of eight, he and his four friends at school hatched a plot on the mean sweet-shop owner Mrs Pratchett (For details of this incident, see Roald Dahl’s autobiography of his childhood, Boy: Tales of Childhood). However, shortly afterwards, Mrs Pratchett reported the incident to the headmaster and the boys were caned. Roald’s mother was angry when she heard this and went to speak to the headmaster. After that, in 1925, she transferred Roald to St. Peter’s in Weston-super-Mare, as you will read in a few minutes.

Childhood

Roald’s summer holidays were wonderful, or “idyllic”, as described by him in Boy: Tales of Childhood. He used to visit his grandparents in Oslo every summer on the first day of the holidays. The journey to Oslo in those days took three days (please remember that in the 1930s there were no planes and it took about thirty times the time it takes to travel now); by taxi to Liverpool, and a full day’s journey on a ship to Oslo. In Oslo, they would stop at Roald’s grandparents’ house to have a grand one-night family reunion. But what Roald remembered most vividly was the motorboat journey to the island of Tjøme, which was according to him “A heaven on the Baltic Sea”. He and his sisters Alfhild, Asta and Else used to collect winkles and eat them on slices of bread and butter.

At the age of nine, in 1925, Roald’s mother sent him to St. Peter’s, as mentioned before. Roald describes its headmaster as “a man with dark, buttery hair glossed down with lots of brilliantine and a wide, toothy smile like a shark”. After two weeks there, Roald was very homesick, so he faked appendicitis to go back home. He fooled the matron and the school doctor, alright, but he couldn’t fake his own doctor, who said Roald was quite alright and made him promise never to fake an illness again.

In 1928, at the age of twelve, Roald transferred to Repton School, in Derbyshire. There, he suffered hardship, being a personal servant to a house prefect, or Boazer, as it was known in Repton. There was one good thing, though: the students got boxes of new chocolates from Cadbury to test.

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Adult life

At the age of twenty-two, in 1938, Roald went to work for Shell, and when war broke out, he was one of the few who were chosen to fight in the RAF. After suffering from a severe head injury in Libya, he was admitted to a hospital, where he stayed for six months. A year later, he was invalided home. Roald died on 23 November 1990 of a blood disease, myelodysplastic syndrome.
By then his collection of works was enough to fill an entire bookshelf! I have collected some his books and those adorn my bookshelf too. Something like this…


Roald Dahl’s works: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
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Charlie and the chocolate factory
Charlie and the chocolate factory

One of my favourite Roald Dahl books is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a story about a boy named Charlie who is from a very poor family. In a lucky stroke, Charlie finds a special ticket to the local chocolate factory, which is run by a chocolate-mad man called Mr Willy Wonka. He then visits the factory on the date mentioned with four other children who have found the tickets as well. Slowly, the children all start to disappear because of various bad qualities until only Charlie is left. I like this book because it is very funny and also sad in places.

This story has also been turned into a motion picture. I have watched the movie as well and loved it. Here is the poster from the movie.

Today, Roald Dahl’s books have been translated into many languages, even those as complex as Thai and Mandarin Chinese.

Below is a small collage of some of Roald’s best titles.

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He’s my favourite author. Why not try some of his books yourself? Bye! See you next time!

Pictures, courtesy BBC, Parkanland and other sites

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