Friday 13 September 2013

Everything Roald Dahl: an A-Z


Take a look at the Puffin website or the Roald Dahl Day activity pack for loads of Dahl-themed things to make and do. Try the one to the left, for example!


The BFG was published in 1982, and is a story about a 24 foot 'big friendly giant' who visits in the night to spread good dreams. However, he is 'puddlenuts' (short) in comparison to the other giants, who like to eat people!

The people-eating giants' names were: Fleshlumpeater, Bonecruncher, Manhugger, Childchewer, Meatdripper, Gizzardgulper, Maidmasher, Bloodbottler and Butcher Boy. Ooh err! According to these giants, people taste like the area they come from. Nobody likes eating Greek people as they taste greasy, but if they want something fishy, they'll go to Wales. I wonder what English people taste of?!

The story is about a little girl called Sophie and her adventure with the BFG. Sophie is based on Roald's granddaughter, Sophie, who we know as the model Sophie Dahl. The queen in the story is the UK's Queen Elizabeth II!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

This is arguably one of Dahl's most popular books. It was written in 1964 and inspired by Dahl's schoolday experiences, when Cadbury would often send test packages to schoolchildren in exchange for their opinions.

In the early drafts, there were originally seven children instead of five, and it was called Charlie's Chocolate Boy. 

As of today, there have been two films, a Radio 4 adaptation, a themed attraction at Alton Towers, and, as of May 2013, a musical adaptation. Roald Dahl hated the 1971 version of the film, thinking it put too much emphasis on Wonka as opposed to Charlie. He therefore blocked permission for any more films to be made in his lifetime. 

The idea I loved the most about this book was lickable wallpaper, although thinking about it now it would be really gross to lick something someone else had already tried. What sparked your imagination the most?

Dahlicious Mischief and Mayhem

It's Roald Dahl's birthday today, and if he was still alive, he'd have been 97. In memoriam, it's 'Roald Dahl Day', and as this site points out, it's Friday the 13th this year, which means even more mischief and mayhem! The website includes party packs, and the option to come in fancy dress to the Roald Dahl Museum on Sunday.

Esio Trot

A cute love story centring around the title (read it backwards!). 

According to this website, this is being made into a film for the BBC (with filming having started this summer), and it'll star Dame Judi Dench and Dustin Hoffman. How cool does that sound?!

Fantastic Mr Fox

Published in 1970, this story features a clever fox trying to find a way to feed his family by stealing from the nearby farms, despite the farmers' efforts to stop him. Boggis, Bunce and Bean don't quite succeed though!

In 2009, this was made into a film starring George Clooney.

George's Marvellous Medicine

This one's my favourite, and I already reviewed it a little while back. Published in 1981. George lives with his really nasty old grandma. It's his job to give her her medicine at 11am - prompt! One day, however, he decides to make his own version, using things he found around the house. The results are hilarious!

Some ingredients include 'Nevermore Ponking' deodorant spray, toothpaste, lipstick, antifreeze and a quart of dark brown gloss paint. Yum!

Miss Honey

Miss Jennifer Honey appears in Matilda as the namesake's teacher and only kind adult. After the death of Jenny's father at the age of five, she was taken in by her cruel aunt, Agatha Trunchbull. She later adopts Matilda after her parents go on the run.

Fun fact: Miss Honey's Liccy doll is named after Roald Dahl's wife, Liccy (short for Felicity). It's also a play on words - Liccy Dahl/Liccy doll.

I didn't know that!

Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay for the Bond movie You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and can be credited with inventing the child catcher.

He wasn't just a children's writer. He wrote short stories for magazines such as Playboy, and apparently only started writing children's books when he ran out of ideas for adult ones.

He was an agent of MI6 during the war, sent to spy on the US.

He co-invented the Wade-Dahl-Till valve, which allows fluid to be drained from a child's brain, after his son Theo's bad car accident led to him developing hydrocephalus.

James and the Giant Peach

Published in 1961. I remember this one more as a film (which had Joanna Lumley in it) than a book - I know, blasphemy! - but it's still got Dahl's vivid imagination written all over it.

Originally titled James and the Giant Cherry, the story involves a boy called James escaping his wicked aunts Spiker and Sponge on a magically-grown peach the size of a house. He has six magically-grown friends, and together they manage to get to New York. Due to its dark content and occasionally scary themes, this is a book that has been regularly censored.


Roald and his first wife Patricia had five children - Olivia, Tessa, Theo, Ophelia and Lucy. Sadly, Olivia died at the age of seven after a bout of measles developed into inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), and Theo was also left brain-damaged after a New York taxi smashed into his pram when he was a baby.

I love this quote - any talk of bones creaking and bedtime stories reminds me of my grandpa! Ophelia Dahl said: "Every evening after my sister Lucy and I had gone to bed, my father would walk slowly up the stairs, his bones creaking louder than the staircase, to tell us a story. I can  see him now, leaning against the wall of our bedroom with his hands in his pockets looking into the distance, reaching into his imagination."


Co-creator of the Wade-Dahl-Till valve, as mentioned above.

Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity - Set up by Liccy Dahl in 1991 after Roald's death, this charity helps children with haematological and neurological problems. These were the issues that affected Roald the most - two of his children had neurological (brain) issues, and he died from a blood disorder (haematology).

And, of course, 65 children's books!


Published in the year I was born - 1988! Matilda's a really clever girl in a family that doesn't prize intelligence. The story's about her telekinetic powers, which she uses to help the only adult she has a bond with, Miss Honey. 

I'd be very surprised if you hadn't heard of/seen the film, and there's also a theatre show now too!

"So Matilda's strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone."


Roald Dahl was part Norwegian. Although he was born in Llandaff, Wales, his parents were both Norwegian. He was named after the national hero Roald Admunsen; the first person to reach both the North and South poles.

Oh, what a wife!

Dahl's first wife was an actress (who later won an Oscar) called Patricia Neal. They had five children together, and divided their time between England and America. They divorced after he admitted to having an affair with one of her good friends.

After Roald and Patricia divorced, Dahl married Felicity 'Liccy' Crosland in 1983. According to, Patricia and Liccy are now friends and there is a large extended family between the two marriages.


A bit of a tenuous link to 'P' maybe, but Roald Dahl did write The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, which I remember reading in the hospital waiting room a few times as a child! Published (I think) in 1985, the story involves Billy, a giraffe, a pelican, and a monkey, who help catch a cat burglar.

Quentin Blake

I've already written about Quentin Blake before - here. When people think of Roald Dahl's books, most associate them with Blake's illustrations. His drawings are even used on the official Dahl website.

Revolting Recipes

An awesome book full of the recipes we'd love to try, and in some cases, maybe not so much. I bought it to see how the magnificent chocolate cake in Matilda was made! Some of them look really fun for the kids to try too. Also though, the picture shows how to make the enormous crocodile - another of Dahl's books.

Service during WW2

Dahl was 23 when war broke out, and he signed up with the RAF as a pilot officer. He wrote a book, Going Solo, in which he talks about what happened during his service. He was transferred to Washington as an air attaché in 1942, where he met a writer that led him to his new career.

The Twits

Published in 1980. Dahl hated beards, and The Twits was a funny book that made fun of them. Mr Twit's beard covers the whole lower part of his face (apart from his nose, obviously), and he often gets scraps of food stuck - a generally filthy man. Mrs Twit used to be pretty, but she had too many horrible thoughts, which made her ugly. They're generally a really nasty couple, but they get their comeuppance.

Uniformed listeners

OK, another tenuous link, but Roald Dahl books are really popular school story-time books (at least in the UK!). I remember being read Fantastic Mr Fox and George's Marvellous Medicine, as well as being in the teacher's chair and reading The Enormous Crocodile myself. I'm sure once my nieces and nephews reach the right age, it'll be read to them, too! I remember loving them, and also seeing the reaction from the children sitting on the floor - having books that accessible is what makes me sure that Roald Dahl is the most loved children's book author.

Veruca Salt

Veruca appears in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I mention it because it's so unusual. Mind you, in one of his drafts, Roald Dahl had thought about writing Mike Teavee in as 'Herpes Trout'. Oompa Loompas were also known as 'Whipple-Scrumpets'.

The Witches

Published in 1983, The Witches always made me watch out for women wearing gloves and scratching their heads when I was a child! It's another book that has been censored a lot, although I never found it that scary. Witches look like normal people, which makes them dangerous, but there are signs to watch out for, as a boy is warned by his grandmother. On a family holiday he ends up bumping into the grand high witch, who has a wicked plan...uh oh! There's a film based on this book, with Anjelica Huston starring as the grand high witch.

EXperimenting with words

Roald Dahl is renowned for the number of made-up words in his books. There are some absolutely brilliant ones that roll off the tongue and make the book a lot more fun to read aloud. For example, the BFG eats snozzcumbers and drinks frobscottle. His farts are called whizzpoppers! You can read more here about some of the notes Dahl made in creating these. My favourite of his words is 'scrumdiddlyumptious' - what's yours?

Young lad

Roald Dahl was born on the 13th September 1916, the only son of a second marriage. His father and sister died when he was three, so he and his five half-siblings were raised by his mother. He got some inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while attending Llandaff Cathedral School between the ages of seven and nine. He wasn't keen on the school, but his main memories of the time were of the sweet shops, and wondering how gobstoppers change colour.

Zzzzz (Dahl's death)

Roald Dahl died on 23rd November 1990 at the age of 74, from myelo-dysplastic anaemia.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Review and excerpt: Render, by Stephanie Fleshman

Before I start on the review, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who entered my birthday giveaway. I'll definitely hold more! A winner has been chosen: Mary B. If this is you, I've emailed you!

Render, by Stephanie Fleshman

A betrayal born of blood. A curse for a gift. A love worth saving…
Seventeen-year-old Raya Whitney thought she knew Koldan – until a sudden turn of events threatens both their lives.
I was given this book free by Novel Publicity in order to take part in their Render blog tour. I am very grateful for this, but in the spirit of honesty, must confess that I didn’t really know what to make of the plot.

The story is written from the point of view of two characters: Koldan and his girlfriend, Raya, whom Koldan intends to propose to. While this isn’t usually a problem, I found that the ‘voices’ of the characters were fairly similar, so I didn’t think the technique added as much as it could have. Both seemed older than their years in their knowledge (at 17, Koldan has already been to pre-med training at Harvard) and speech; it’s only certain aspects of their behaviour that reveals them to be teenagers.

Then there’s something that is probably only my bugbear. As a couple, Koldan and Raya are very touchy-feely, and at times this overwhelmed the other feelings they were supposed to be having at different points in the book. For example, just before Koldan’s grandfather’s funeral, I didn’t get any real sense of sadness, just lust, where he wanted to keep kissing Raya. There are also hints of teenage angst in their love for each other, even when there’s no reason for there to be.

Despite what it sounds like, there were parts of this book I enjoyed. When the action got going, the pace was good and there were some parts of the plot and setting that were really original and that I wasn’t expecting. The banter between the characters (and in this I’m including Koldan’s brother, Lukas, and best friend, Ethan) was quite funny at times, too.

The moment I ‘got into’ this book was at 70%, which generally I wouldn’t count as brilliant, but I have a feeling it’s intended to set the scene for the next book/s. The background is a little complicated, and I think Stephanie Fleshman wanted to establish the background between Koldan, Raya and the others, as well as the family history, before branching into the ‘real’ action. The book gets 2.5-3 stars from me for the last third of the book that was good, although I’m not sure if I would read the second book. That’s just me though – I think those with an interest in mystery/action books who don’t mind a bit of in-yer-face romance and are always looking for something original would love it.

* * * * * * * * * *

  As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, Render, the debut YA Paranormal novel by Stephanie Fleshman, is on sale for just 99 cents! What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $550 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book. All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment - easy to enter; easy to win! To win the prizes:
  1. Get Render at its discounted price of 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest at the bottom of the page
  3. Visit the featured social media events
  4. Leave a comment on my blog for a chance at a $100 prize.
Render Tour BadgeStephanie Fleshman graduated with a degree in psychology and has family throughout the United States as well as in Thessaloniki and Athens, Greece. Visit Stephanie on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Render: an excerpt

I spin around and pull her to me, sighing as her arms lock around my neck. I lower my face to her hair, turning it into the curve of her neck to breathe her in.

 Her body molds to mine, lithe and boneless, and my arms swallow her as I tighten my hold. It softens all the hard points, the tension I’d been holding onto, smoothing the muscles in my shoulders and back.

 “You have great problem-solving skills, by the way,” I tell her softly in her ear.

 Keeping her arms around me, she leans back against the wall to look at me, a baffled expression on her face, whether in relation to the compliment or the unexpected direction in conversation, I don’t know.

 “Do I?” Her voice lifts in a flirtatious pitch.

 “Mmm. It’s why I asked you out,” I tease. “You solved most of my problems just by agreeing.” Looking back, I realize just how true this is, though I doubt she’ll take me seriously.

Her lips curl in an obliging smile, and her eyes say it all, disbelieving in their beauty, corroborating what I already knew. But she’s still smiling, and I alone am responsible for that.

 She curls her hand around the side of my neck, and I feel her thumb glide over the scar behind my earlobe, one I incurred at fourteen, when Lukas slammed my head into the bathroom mirror. Then I broke his collarbone. Both of us ended up in the emergency room that morning, an incident that resulted in our father leaving for work a half hour later. It’s always quieter when our father is home.

 “How are you doing?” she asks, looking up to search my eyes.

I slide my hands from the small of her back to her waist, as my gaze sweeps from shoulder to shoulder. I can already feel the ground of normalcy beneath me, her presence holding the pieces of my life together, when it seems everything can come apart at any moment. “Good now that you’re here.”

 This seems to make her both happy and sad. A look of gloom passes over her face even as a small smile touches her lips. Then her eyes trail down the front of my body, taking in my suit jacket and pants. “You look like a lawyer,” she comments. “Straight from the courtroom.”

 I can’t remember a time when she’s ever seen me in a suit. The closest is the tux I wore to her senior prom two months ago, which is not much different than what I wear now.

“It suits you.”

I raise my eyebrows in doubt. “What? Looking like a lawyer?”

“Not just a lawyer. You look…professional.” Then, with a full smile, she adds, “I like it.”

“Ah,” I say, mirroring her smile as I grasp her meaning. “I like that you’re my biggest fan.”

Her teeth shine bright against her tan skin. She drops her arms to her sides, and I lace my fingers through hers. She smells of honeysuckle, vanilla, and lavender all at once, with soft underlying notes I can’t name, a scent that swirls inside me, tantalizing every cell in my body.

I lean forward, canting my head slightly to fit my lips to hers. I have to fight to keep the rhythm slow, to savor every second. But when her mouth opens, urgency builds within me, and I press farther. Too soon, though, she’s pulling away, leaving my blood pumping in a hot stream and my heart pounding against my chest.

I place a hand on the wall behind her and lean forward, closing the narrow space she’s put between us.

“I wasn’t finished,” I say.

I’m already tilting my head to kiss her again when she stops me with one word. “Wait.”

“Wait?” I mutter against her lips. I feel her palms on my chest, easing me back. It’s hard to concentrate on anything but touching her, but I slowly resign myself to the conversation that is apparently inevitable, when my only instinct is to kiss her. I straighten and meet her eyes, which does nothing to tame my thoughts.

“I got your note,” she says.

When I started mowing Mrs. Whitney’s lawn, Elizabeth gave me a key, so I could let myself in when they weren’t home. In the beginning, I would leave Raya notes on her dresser, not knowing at the time that she’d actually keep them. When she showed me every note I’d ever written her, my first instinct was to laugh, because it seemed senseless. But then I saw how impressed she was and felt empowered that I could make her so happy. She probably has a shoebox full of notes by now.

 I back her against the wall until we’re touching from hips to shoulders. Her eyes, as warm and green as summer leaves, meet mine. She’s looking at me as if I did something amazing, but just in case, I ask, “Is that all? Or is there something else you want to add, because I’d really like to kiss you right now?” Her eyes dip momentarily to my mouth.

“I was going to thank you for the note, but you distracted me.” 

“You don’t need words for that.”  

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Saturday 7 September 2013

Fear Week, by Andrew McBurnie

Fear Week, by Andrew McBurnie

It's 1962, the week of the Cuban missile crisis, and the world is threatened by nuclear war. Teenager Adrian Thorby is about to experience a week of embarrassing and comic incidents, but he's scared. He's a science-fiction fan who fears he will never live to see a futuristic world of high technology, including space travel and robots, and will never have a girlfriend.
The seven days of the novel depict a family living under the threat of nuclear war in a family that is still flattened from WW2 bombing. Despite the menace, Adrian's parents and everyone else continue with their lives as if everything is normal. This behaviour is a mystery to Adrian, who is also dealing with awkward sexual problems and with falling in love.
I was sent Fear Week by Andrew McBurnie, the author, in exchange for an honest review. The plot appealed to me as I'd never heard of, let alone read anything about the Cuban missile crisis, and I wanted a chance to learn about that and the Cold War.

The story centres around Adrian Thorby and the events that happen to him over the week of the Cuban missile crisis. His age is never mentioned, but I'd put it at around 13. The tension between America and Russia is affecting Hull in 1962, but those aren't the only things that worry Adrian that week.

Generally, when starting a book I read as little of the blurb as possible, so I was a little shocked when, on the second page, there's the line:
"He felt his willy twitching..."
Don't get me wrong, it's realistic, but I hadn't been expecting it! There was more on this subject throughout the book, and at times it was somewhat awkward, but this was probably proportionate to the embarrassment Adrian was feeling!

McBurnie created really realistic relationships between the characters, whether Adrian's family or friends. I loved the sibling rivalry, and could really relate to the sense of panic Adrian's friend Tim and he felt when they 'lost' his brother's book.

It took me a little while to get into this, but once I did, I enjoyed it. It's a creeper! McBurnie captures the little things really well - fears about the nuclear threat, and family niggles, for example. I also thought that, once it got going, the story managed to evoke the history it was representing. The casual acceptance of caning in school helped with a lot of this, haha!


Tuesday 3 September 2013

Billy and the Monster Who Loved to Fart, by David Chuka

Billy and the Monster Who Loved to Fart, by David Chuka
Published by Pen-n-a-Pad Publishing

Billy loves Monster and Monster loves Billy. They play together. They have a bath together. They even go to school together. There's just one thing that threatens to spoil their friendship.
Monster loves to fart! And everyone blames Billy for it!
Will Monster make Billy the uncoolest kid at school? Will Monster cause an irreparable hole in the O-Zone layer? Will Monster and Billy both learn to behave properly in a social environment?
I was aunty babysitter again the other night, and managed to get Caitlin and Lewis to bed fairly easily by taking them up to read a story. While the pictures on my Kindle Paperwhite aren't the  best, I was reading out the titles of books I could read to them, and as soon as they heard the word 'fart', that was it, book chosen.

It was a great choice, because all three of us were in fits of laughter. Things like "rumbles in my tummy [felt like] bubbles doing a salsa dance" were really easy to engage the kids with, as I'd tickle their tummy, and they understand all the words really well.

When we got to farts sounding like "a rocket launching into outer space" and that "started real low but ended real high". Bearing in mind that I was doing all the sounds, we all had tears in our eyes and their parents (who hadn't quite left yet) were laughing just hearing us!

If you've got a child or children who love to hear about farts (which I imagine is most children, haha!), I'd recommend this book 100%. Many thanks to David Chuka for sending me this book and the others in his collection, although please note that this has not affected my review, which is completely honest.

Also, don't forget about my giveaway, which is still running!