Roald Dahl was born on 13 September 1916 and would be a 103 years old if he were still alive today. Apart from being a prolific writer of children’s stories, this British novelist also wrote scripts, poems and was a fighter pilot in World War II. Dahl lived an exciting life, with a prank-filled childhood, a harrowing time spent in Kenya and Tanzania, and then a spell in the Royal Air Force performing death-defying feats. He spills the warts-and-all details of his escapades in his autobiographies, Boy, Going Solo and My Year, the latter of which depicts the final year of his life.
Plenty of his hijinks have made it into his stories too, with lots of witty commentary on how kids view the world. Accompanied by the whimsical illustrations of Quentin Blake, kids of all ages can relate to Dahl’s work, from childhood favourites like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to lesser known titles like The Vicar of Nibbleswicke. Adults are fans of his gruesome short stories like Skin and The Great Automatic Grammatizator. There really is a Dahl story for everyone! We’ve rounded up some of the HoneyKids and Honeycombers teams’ top picks of Roald Dahl’s books in celebration of this unique, mercurial, beloved man.
I was and still am a HUGE Roald Dahl fan – all of my copies of his books from my ’80s childhood are some of my most precious possessions… I can’t let my kids near them! Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts were the funniest things ever to my younger self… my potty mouth and dark humour definitely appreciated Dahl’s rhyming wizardry and are still going strong! Other (more adult) faves: the short-story collections of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, Kiss Kiss and Skin. – Amy
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me
We all know just how passionate Dahl was about chocolates and candies (he definitely knew his audience well) and The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me was no stranger to tantalising descriptions. The story has everything: quirky characters including a pelican with an upper beak that retracts, a giraffe with an extendable neck and dreams of owning a sweet shop. Short and sweet, everyone wins in the end. – Sheralyn
Even if you haven’t read the book, you’re sure to have seen the 1996 film! Played by Mara Wilson, Matilda has some of the most iconic scenes where she trumps the bully principal Miss Trunchbull with her cool powers. And if you’ve ever seen or read Matilda, you’ve definitely stared at a glass willing it to tip over. – Jana
The idea of having a Big Friendly Giant who blows sweet dreams into children’s bedrooms and sucks bad dreams out is endearing. But the opposite – bad giants who eat people – is the stuff straight out of nightmares. Luckily it all works out in the end, and the heroes of the story, Sophie and The BFG, even get to meet the Queen of England! – Kate R
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I love Dahl’s evocative storytelling, his perverse sense of humour and, of course, his hallmark underdog winning against the odds. The way that Roald Dahl writes is so effortless and natural, it’s a pleasure to read his stories out loud to the kids. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is special to me because I am a HUGE lolly fiend and the idea that you can swim in a chocolate river and eat flowers blows my mind! – Kate
The Twits is hands down my favourite. I loved the dirty tricks Mr and Mrs Twit would play on each other (which taught me everything I need to know about marriage), and Quentin Blake’s illustrations of hairy beards and wonky eyes are the best thing ever. I have a vintage hardcover signed by Mr Blake – is it mean to not want to share it with the kids? – Selina
I was a huge Roald Dahl fan as a kid and the one that got me hooked was The Witches – the premise was dark and diabolical, and the villains were, of course, unapologetically nasty. But there was always the theme of courage, love and innocence, all packaged in a wonderfully written and fantastical story. Roald Dahl never shied from being snarky and irreverent in his portrayal of grown-ups who are both cruel and conceited, something which appeals to my dark sense of humour. – Chelsia
George’s Marvellous Medicine
I am sure we’ve all had a relative we would like to give a dose of George’s medicine treatment to… George was infinitely cool and made me want to be a pharmacist when I grew up (I also wanted to travel the world on a giant peach, and hang out with the BFG. And who doesn’t still look for golden tickets in their chocolate bars?). – Tracy
Top image: Photography by Sheralyn Loh
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