Few authors have created rich and unique fantasy worlds quite like Roald Dahl. Opening one of his classic storybooks can transport the reader into a place where dreams can be captured in bottles, bugs are loyal friends the size of humans and chocolate bars can hold “golden tickets” to happiness. So in honor of his hundredth birthday, OutlooK-12 is proud to dedicate this month’s School Library to Dahl’s beloved works. The information below is courtesy of www.roalddahl.com who also provides lesson plans for many of Dahl’s titles. Book covers are courtesy of the publisher Puffin Books.
Matilda Wormwood is a five-year-old genius. Unfortunately, her parents are too stupid to notice. Worse, her headmistress Miss Trunchbull is a bully who makes life difficult for Matilda's teacher, Miss Honey, and her friends. But what Miss Trunchbull doesn't know is that smart little Matilda has a trick or two up her sleeve.
Fun Facts: Earlier versions of the now beloved story had Matilda as a naughty child who uses her special abilities to fix a horse race, so her teacher would no longer have financial problems. Dahl’s book has been adapted into a Broadway musical and a film in 1996 that was directed by Danny DeVito.
“James and the Giant Peach”
James Henry Trotter lives with his two horrid aunts, Spiker and Sponge. He hasn't got a single friend in the whole wide world. That is not until he meets the Old Green Grasshopper and the rest of the insects aboard a giant, magical peach!
Fun Facts: While writing “James and the Giant Peach,” Dahl was inspired by the cherry tree in the orchard at his home in the Buckinghamshire countryside, imagining what if the cherries kept growing larger. Other fruits considered for the story included apples and pears. The book was made into a combination live action/stop motion animated movie in 1996.
The Big Friendly Giant or BFG is unlike other giants. He doesn't like to eat people and instead captures dreams and keeps them in bottles for children to enjoy. But one night he meets an orphan named Sophie, and the two unlikely friends team up to stop the other giants from eating humans once and for all.
Fun Facts: Dahl was in the habit of writing down possible story ideas in exercise books. A sentence from one of these books was the inspiration for “The BFG.” This past summer the Walt Disney Company and Steven Spielberg released in theaters a live action/CGI movie version of “The BFG.”
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
Three horrid farmers named Boggis, Bunce and Bean hate cunning Mr. Fox who outwits (or out foxes) them at every turn. what Mr. Fox and his friends don't realize is just how determined the farmers are to get them or that he very soon might not be able to get his furry tail out of trouble.
Fun Fact: Dahl was inspired by a real tree known as “the witches tree” to create Mr. Fox. He would tell his children that the Fox family lived in a hole beneath its trunk. The story inspired a stop-motion film featuring the voices of George Clooney and Meryl Streep.
“Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”
Nobody has seen Willy Wonka or inside his amazing chocolate factory for years. When he announces plans to invite the winners of five Golden Tickets hidden inside the wrappers of chocolate bars to visit his factory, the whole world is after those tickets!
Fun Facts: While in school, Dahl and his classmates were “taste testers” for a chocolate company. There were several earlier versions of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and at one point ten children were visiting the chocolate factory instead of five. One of Dahl’s best known books, it was made into two movies starring Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp respectively as Willie Wonka.
“Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator”
Willy Wonka has asked Charlie and the rest of the Bucket family to live with him. Now, moments after “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” ended, the adventure continues as the Great Glass Elevator blasts Charlie into outer space.
Fun Fact: “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator” was published eight years after “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Dahl considered other words for the glass contraption including “air machine” and “lift” (the British word for elevator and the word used to describe the device in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”). Eventually, he chose the American term “elevator” because he felt it was less “boring” than the word “lift.”
ISBN-13: 978-0142413821 Lesson Plans:
Shy Mr. Hoppy is in love with a widow named Mrs. Silver. Although they talked every morning from their apartments’ balconies, Mr. Hoppy wishes he could do something to win her over. Then one day he gets an idea involving Mrs. Silver’s beloved pet tortoise, Alfie.
Fun Fact: When “Esio Trot” was published, new laws had been enacted in England, so pet shops could no longer sell tortoises. To avoid confusion, Dahl added the following introduction: “The things you are going to read about in this story all happened in the days when anyone could go out and buy a nice little tortoise from a pet shop.”
“The Enormous Crocodile”
ISBN-13: 978-0142414538 Lesson Plans:
Crocodiles are such greedy creatures, and their favorite lunchtime snack happens to be a juicy child or two! The worst of the bunch, however, is the Enormous Crocodile who is sure he’s crafty enough to catch his innocent little prey. But for all his bragging, he isn't as smart as he thinks, and other animals don’t like his choice of menu.
Fun Fact: When Dahl was a young man, he lived in Africa and found that he had to avoid dangerous animals, including snakes, monkeys and, yes, crocodiles. Years later, he drew on these real-life experiences when he created the world of “The Enormous Crocodile.”
“The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me”
ISBN-13: 978-0142413845 Lesson Plans:
The Ladderless Window-Cleaning Company has just moved in to the old wooden house not far from where Billy lives. Billy would rather have a sweet shop, but when he meets the members of the Company, the Giraffe, the Pelican and the Monkey, he can't believe his eyes.
Fun Facts: “The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me” ends with the monkey singing, “We have tears in our eyes as we wave our good-byes, we so loved being with you, we three. So do please now and then come see us again, the Giraffe and the Pelly and me." These words are on stone slabs near Dahl’s grave.
“The Vicar of Nibbleswicke”
ISBN-13: 978-0140368376 Lesson Plans:
Reverend Robert Lee develops a very unusual condition the local doctor calls Back-to-Front Dyslexia where he says certain words backwards. As a result, he makes mistakes like saying his name is “Robert Eel” instead of “Robert Lee” and “Dog help me!” instead of “God help me!”
Fun Fact: Dahl wrote this story to aid The Dyslexia Institute because he felt strongly about the well being of others and about the importance of reading. Today, these two drives in his life continue to inspire the work of his two charities: Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity and The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.
Athough Gene Wilder has played a wide variety of characters over the course of his career, one of his best know and most beloved is his portrayal of Roald Dahl's iconic Willie Wonka. Wilder passed away in late August at age 83. All of us at OutlooK-12 extend our condolences to Wilder's family and friends.