Friday, 13 September 2013

A Bookcase Full of Treasure #1 - Roald Dahl Day celebration

In my new feature A Bookcase Full of Treasure I will share some of the books on my shelf that hold special memories.

Today is Roald Dahl Day. I have copies of every Roald Dahl book on my shelf; they all look a bit worse for wear.  Yellowed pages, dog-eared corners, deeply cracked spines.  The signs of a book that has been truly loved.  And loved they have been.

Firstly, I selected Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  My edition is the 1988 Puffin edition.  I wanted to talk about this as I clearly remember buying it.  Like many other schools, my junior school had a book club.  A few times a year we would be given a pamphlet full of books available to purchase, and I desperately wanted Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Although I always read a lot and had lots of books, most of the books I owned were second hand so the thought of choosing a title myself was a real thrill.  I was allowed to buy it (the RRP on the back states it was £1.95), but that meant a wait.  No instant gratification in this case! The orders were placed and paid for and two long weeks passed before delivery day.  The excitement when cardboard boxes full of brand new books arrived at school was immense.  Mr Richards, a fantastic teacher, allowed me and a friend to help him sort out the books and bag them up for each child to take at home time.  Knowing that one of the many copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was coming home with me was hugely satisfying.  I delighted in reading it for the first time, and have delighted in it many times since.  The blurb on the back of my edition says 'The Best Loved Children's Book Ever!' and they may well be right.  First published in 1964, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is still as popular as ever, the farcical humour thrilling for all generations.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory isn't my favourite Dahl book, let alone my favourite children's book.  Matilda, on the other hand, challenges on both counts.  One of the reasons I adore Matilda is that I remember it being released.  My generation was the first to be introduced to this children's classic, which fills me with a sense of joy.  First published in 1988, my edition is the 1989 Puffin edition.  I am pretty sure it was a 10th birthday present from my Gran and I have proudly labelled the inside of my edition to declare ownership. 

Why do I love Matilda?  Firstly, the protagonist reminded me of myself.  A bookish, inquisitive girl, I found Matilda to be charming, clever and defiant.  I wanted to have some of those qualities myself. The gentle Miss Honey seemed like a perfect and supportive teacher with fun teaching methods.  I still recite 'Mrs D, Mrs I, Mrs FFI, Mrs C, Mrs U, Mrs LTY' when spelling 'difficulty' despite no longer needing to-Dahl is deceptively educational as well as entertaining.  But the main reason I love Matilda? The formidable Miss Trunchbull.  Without a doubt one of the best book baddies around, the image of her throwing Amanda Thripp by her hair has stayed with me for life (aided by Quentin Blake's fabulous illustration).  Terrifying and yet captivating I was enthralled by her ferocious nature, the complete antithesis of the delightful Miss Honey.  A classic tale of good overcoming evil, Matilda is a book every child should own.

'The only movement from the reader was the lifting of the hand every now and then to turn over a page' Dahl observes in Matilda.  Books that captivate children are a gift, and the ability to create such books is also a gift.  I am indebted to Roald Dahl for creating books which I hold in my heart and mind, escapist children's fiction beyond compare.

Happy Roald Dahl Day. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post - I love Matilda too, and I love how used/loved your books are! -my favourite kind.