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Reading List: Childhood Years with Roald Dahl

Updated on February 19, 2017
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JM has a passion for inspirational objects of the past and the present. Using words to create a new form of storytelling.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach

Growing up with Chocolate, Magic, and Giant Peaches

The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. - Roald Dahl (Matilda)

Books are one way of getting out and exploring some of the fascinating worlds that only imagination can create. Stories come alive as each word is read and appreciated by readers who see the colorful settings and enjoy the company of relatable characters. Introducing younger readers to this wonderful experience may require some trusted help from the famous storyteller, Roald Dahl.

Who is Roald Dahl?

Roald Dahl was a British writer, novelist, screenwriter and poet who made books as early as the 1960s. Even though he came from an earlier generation, his books surpassed those times and are continuously read up to this day. His works that are more popular are the children books. His writing style had been the center of appreciation and interest by young and old alike.

Dahl's short story writing for children is different. He makes wicked situations seem real with dark humor and detailed descriptions. This unusual style in children stories made his works remarkable.

Words to the Big Screen

Many generations of readers have enjoyed the company of Roald Dahl's stories and lessons. There is great excitement in opening and reading through the pages of his short children's stories. But as time takes in new discoveries, the stories found new forms. Of course, even before there was 3D technology and before the big screen showed sci-fi, post-apocalyptic stories, there were also Roald Dahl's children's stories that were made into films.

The various characters created and remembered from the pages of a book came to life for the big screen. They all seemed fascinating because they remained to reflect on the writer's unusual style while introducing new elements to entertain. Even though the movie can't be as detailed as the books, they were able to manage and balanced it with the use of special effects. Most of Dahl's stories are magical, and in that sense made the movies more intricate to make.

The top three movies that are memorable adaptations are the following:

  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (though this is not the same title as the book, I prefer this over the newer adaptation [2005], because the latest one gave me the chills, even if Johnny Depp was there)
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Matilda

If I will add another one, maybe it will be The Witches.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Favorite Roald Dahl movie adaptation

What is your favorite Roald Dahl's movie adaptation?

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Fun and not so Eerie

A story of a young boy who got the last golden ticket to see the famous chocolate factory of Mr. Willy Wonka. The man who decided to open his factory's doors to five lucky children, who would find golden tickets hidden on the wrappers of his chocolate bars.

Five children attend the event with each having a guardian. Augustus Gloop, a boy who enjoys eating too much, got the first ticket and leads to his town's giving him a parade. Veruca Salt who is an extreme brat gets the second ticket from the hard work of employees hired by his rich father. Then Violet Beauregarde finds the next ticket while she is resting from achieving the world record in gum chewing. (Just one gum for a very long time). Next, Mike Teavee gets the fourth ticket, but he does not seem so interested with the prize because he only cares about television. (Get it, Teavee). Lastly, there is the seeming underdog in the story, Charlie Bucket. He is a poor boy who even experienced savoring and saving a single chocolate bar for a month but surprisingly got his golden ticket a day before the event.

Within the famous chocolate factory, all the guests experience amazing and surprising situations which both give the readers some thoughts to ponder. But compared to the latest adaptation (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2005), when the story is made into the movie, the earlier adaptation is more colorful and lively. Also, the soundtrack of this movie will give you a sense of sentimentality, but not in the dark side of things. Although Dahl's signature style is usually having a dark humor to it, the latest one just was a little off the beat of being Dahl's story and more of being the director's story.

As much as I love Tim Burton's works, his take on this story did not make me forget the first movie. His use of visually dark cues and lighting made the movie more of a mystery-filled adaptation.

James and the Giant Peach (1996)

Friends Big or Small

This movie combines both animation and live acting. This style had been used mostly in the 1990s because of the age of more advanced technology. The story of a young boy who is suffering from his two "evil" aunts, but receives a magical gift to go and reach his dream, is the main story in this movie. The adventure of the unlikely characters with a refreshing blend of live action and animation, this movie gave life to the illustrations found in the book. The human-size insects and the view inside the giant peach were well detailed. A movie both young and old can enjoy. Viewers would be given that hope and would look forward to the next challenge before the characters reach the Empire State Building.

As part of Dahl's style as well, he was able to re-imagine the world with small but strong characters. He was able to show simple yet meaningful adventures. Then in this movie, the details come to life. A sure entertaining watch for children. But might receive some bad comments from tech-savvy ones.

Matilda (1996)

Power and Responsibility

The relationship of power and responsibility is not just seen in superhero movies. In this 1996 movie adaptation, a cute and adorable little girl shows great and unexplained strengths. The differences between children and adults are seen as a stepping stone for greater and more meaningful representations.

Matilda made things seem simple and hopeful. Even when big troubles come the way, there is a way to go past them. However, there should still be a sense of courage to face them properly.

This movie adaptation made the little, intelligent girl extraordinary because of her "powers." Book readers might want to see the genius, five-year-old who reads but this is a lighter Dahl talking, but his magical thoughts still linger through the movie.

Magic all over

For the extra nostalgia, The Witches (1990)

Even though the sound of that title may be scary, it still has that wonderful Roald Dahl touch.


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      Heidy Vargas 3 years ago

      Hello. I enjoyed reading your hub. It took me back in time to the movies that I watched when I was growing up. The movies are very well done with a touch of Roald Dahl's unique stories. Those movies still hold a special place in my heart. Best wishes.