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.


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