So last week, I talked about a book that I loved as a child: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Continuing on the subject of inspiration, I wanted to create another subtopic focusing on authors whose work has inspired me in my own writing, and it seems only fair to start with the same author of the wonderful book I’ve already reviewed. Kicking off the Notable Authors segment of my blog is storyteller extraordinaire and one of my favorite writers of all time: Roald Dahl.
Name: Roald Dahl
Pen Name: Roald Dahl
Life: Sept. 13, 1916 – Nov. 23, 1990
Nationality: British (born in Wales), Norwegian descent
Occupation: novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, fighter pilot (WWII)
Genres: children’s literature, fantasy, mystery, nonfiction
Notable Works: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda
My Favorite Works: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Umbrella Man and Other Stories
Roald Dahl was my favorite author growing up, and with good reason. Having captivated me at the age of nine with his 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he quickly drew me into his fantastic world with more children’s books like Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Witches and several others. His unique style of storytelling was very entertaining to read, for he always seemed to know exactly how to paint a mental picture from the perspective of a child, which is much more appealing (and less patronizing) than an adult trying to describe the events of a story in a way that children will understand. Reading each of Mr. Dahl’s novels as a kid, I felt as though I were being told a story by someone who understood exactly how I saw the world, and who knew exactly what I wanted to find in the pages of a book. It may seem odd, but whenever I was reading one of his stories, I didn’t see him as just an author; I saw him almost as a friend.
Something I always loved about Dahl’s children’s books was the fact that his heroes were usually children. Charlie Bucket, Matilda Wormwood, the unnamed protagonist of The Witches (named Luke Eveshim in the 1990 film), among others, all live incredible adventures before even having reached adolescence. For the preteen me, it was wonderful to read about heroes who were my age; it made me feel like it could just as easily have been me taking a tour through a magical chocolate factory, or developing telekinetic powers, or executing brilliant plans to defeat witches or cruel headmistresses or nasty adults of any sort. That’s another interesting detail about the author’s stories: just as the heroes are often children, the villains are often adults. And honestly, could anything be more relatable to a young reader?
But Mr. Dahl’s brilliant storytelling skills were not limited to children’s fiction. He wrote a fair amount of excellent short stories for older audiences; one such compilation – The Umbrella Man and Other Stories – contains some of the most delightfully creative short pieces I’ve ever read in a book. His autobiography, Boy: Tales of Childhood, includes hilarious accounts of events that I could hardly believe were true stories (my personal favorite is the Great Mouse Plot of 1924, which romantic comedy fans may remember as the story Meg Ryan reads to the children in the bookstore in the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail), but which certainly explain the colorful stories he would go on to write later in his life. With numerous awards and tremendous merit to his name, it’s clear that Dahl was talented at entertaining readers of all ages alike.
Roald Dahl is one of my heroes. He introduced me to a magical world that I could visit anytime I wanted to escape from reality, and he was the first author ever to inspire me to pursue creative writing. His stories have touched me and will remain forever embedded in my heart, and for that, I will always admire him as one of the greatest storytellers whose work I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Thank you, Mr. Dahl, for your wonderful gift! You will never be forgotten.