Writing a Roald Dahl Books List is a very troublesome task, the difficulty lies in organizing a suitable and yet fair ranking. I must call upon my eight year old self, don’t worry readers she will not be busy, more than likely sitting in a corner reading a book and giggling away to herself. So, when it comes to the magnificent work of Roald Dahl, I just need to ask, what did his stories truly mean to me? What stories always left me in a fit of laughter? What stories and words repulsed me to the point of doing a very, very unattractive face while reading? What stories made me crave mischief and adventure? And most importantly, who were the characters that made me feel so safe and that I belonged?
Roald Dahl Books List – Top 10
In case you were robbed of a childhood and missed out on the weird and wonderful world of Dahl, here is a list of my all time favourites. All books displayed below are from my childhood and will always have a place in my heart.
10- The Minpins
The Minpins was my first Roald Dahl story so it arguably deserves a place in my Roald Dahl Books List. I was introduced to the story in Primary school. We were all ushered outside for story time and Mrs Taylor sat down and all of us children gathered round and took a seat on the grass. The story’s magnificent description of forestry and Little Billy’s surroundings, made sitting outside become a part of the story. The tale is about a young boy called Little Billy who is told to never go into the forest opposite his home. He is warned of a vicious monsters but his hunger for the luscious wild strawberries entices him into the forest. It is during his adventure he duels a monster, rides a swan and befriends the Minpins.
The rhythmical language made the storytelling fun and gave us the children a chance to interact. I remember whenever we read along and recognized a rhyme, we were allowed to shout it out. With characters such as Little Billy and Don Mini, it was a very noisy story time. The rhythm within Dahl’s writing is what first entertained me, within his rhymes, repetition and alliteration a child will never get bored of the creative word play. My favourites were the “Red-Hot Smoke-Belching Gruncher” and the “Terrible Bloodsuckling Toothpluckling Stonechuckling Spittler”. It’s filled with so many fun made up words; something that always will be a part of Dahl’s brilliant charm. This story was published in 1991 just after Dahl’s death in November 1990 and is one of his fewer book not illustrated by Quentin Blake. Patrick Benson’s illustrations are beautiful and fills the pages with different various shades of greens and browns. The illustrations fit the tone of the book perfectly. It is believed that The Minpins was Roald Dahl’s last contribution to Children’s literature.
9- Danny the Champion of the World
Danny the Champion of the World managed to squeeze its way into my Roald Dahl Books List based on its sentimental family values. The story was originally published in 1975 and adapted into a TV movie in 1989. Danny is a young boy who absolutely adores his dad in every way, being raised by him alone, he is his hero. They live in a blue caravan and live a happy and peaceful life until one day Danny learns that his dad has been breaking the law. They work together and attempt to pull off a daring and devilish plot against the wealthy and horrible, red faced Mr Victor Hazell.
I remember reading this book and wishing I could have the opportunity to go hunting for Pheasants. The story’s play on family bonding and developing father and son relationships is very touching. I have recently re-read this book and with no longer having my Dad in my life, reading made me appreciate my own memories a lot more. My favourite part of the story is how in awe Danny is of his Dad. When reading the story you truly believe in his appreciation and respect towards his hero. Roald Dahl never had a father growing up so I wonder if this story was based on how great he was of a dad or whether he created a character based upon his perfect idea of who his dad was. Lastly it is this story that carries one of my favourite Roald Dahl quotes,
“When you grow up and have children of your own, do please remember something important, a stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is SPARKY”.
8- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
It comes as no surprise that a story involving chocolate will be in my Top 10 Roald Dahl Books List. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is well and truly one of my favourite stories, so much so when I visited Alton Towers I went onto the ride twice! I know its besides the point because we are here to discuss books but the ride is great, it’s made up of Quentin Blake’s illustrations so it really is like a Roald Dahl story coming to life. Right now, back to the story. Charlie Bucket is from a poor home, loves chocolate and loves his family more. Mr Willy Wonka is a wondrous inventor of chocolate and is opening his factory gates to five lucky children who have found the lucky golden ticket.
With this story it is the books success that fascinates me most, for instance when I see a spoilt girl, I whisper, “What a Veruca Salt” to myself. Dahl has created such distinctive characters and personalities, making his characters very popular. Surprisingly I have never seen the two films based upon Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and really wouldn’t want too. I like that Roald Dahl wrote a story with such vivid description that I created my own image and would not want that spoiled. The songs I loved to read, I never got a chance to own any Roald Dahl poetry books but his ridiculous rhymes always entertained me. As a child reading I was of course mesmerized by the imaginative candy, the everlasting gobstopper, the three course dinner chewing gum and the mushrooms that spurt whipped cream, yummy! It’s this crazy imaginative kind of language that made me a little weird as a child. In school I soon began making up odd words and stories just because it’s what I thought was my kind of fun, I was inspired. It was these imaginative ramblings that kept kids entertained enough to not want to rush off and watch TV but to stay and go on an adventure with Roald Dahl. It saddens me to know that after Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator another part of the story was in the works to be written but never got finished. Imagine another wondrous adventure with Mr Willy Wonka…
7- James and the Giant Peach
In my opinion James and the Giant Peach is one of Roald Dahl’s darkest and most creepiest books. James lives a happy life with his parents until one day they are eaten by a escaped rhino, he is then sent to live with his evil aunt Spiker and Sponge. Day after day of being verbally abused he runs into his garden to cry and meets a strange old man who gives him a sack of glowing crocodile tongues. With the promise of magic and happiness James runs home, trips up and spills the contents onto a peach tree. The tree becomes enchanted and one peach grows to the size of a large house. One day James goes to eat the peach and finds a tunnel and follows it inside. This is where he meets his crew of insects and sets way to a marvellous adventure. I loved the sense of adventure and escape when I read this book. As a child it was my first time reading and being able to sympathize with a character. I longed for James Henry Trotter to be free and escape from his evil aunt Sponge and Spiker. Another one of Dahl’s attributes is his fearless creation of characters, only a brave writer would write about a group of squirmy insects and make them loyal companions.
It makes me giggle to think Roald Dahl originally wrote this story about a giant cherry but changed it because a peach is, “prettier, bigger and squishier”. Due to Roald Dahl’s wacky and sometimes dark sense of humour, the story contained some potentially frightening content causing it to be #56 on the American Library Association’s Top 100 list of challenged books.
6- George’s Marvellous Medicine
It’s because of George’s Marvellous Medicine that I wanted to cause and revel in huge amounts of mischief, just like George. One day George grows tiresome of his grizzly old grouch of a Grandma and George wants to teach her a lesson. So when it’s time for her medicine, George concocts his own bubbling and marvellous medicine. It was this story that prompted me and my cousin Clare to create our own mixtures using everything in the house. Honestly we used to raid my Nan’s bathroom pantry and stir everything together, from toothpaste, shampoos, shower gels and conditioners, basically anything we could get our little mitts on. Sorry Nan…
This book has been criticised for its structure and abrupt ending but I loved the shortness of the story. It was always my perfect pick for a quick short read while in my dad’s car or in the garden on my tyre swing on a warm summer’s day. Definitely one of my favourites for encouraging all kinds of mischief and mayhem. Thinking back I remember using it as a how to guide for a marvellous medicine. Dahl describes every product from every room to put into the medicine. Thankfully, nothing spectacular ever came of any of my attempts of a marvellous medicine.
5- Fantastic Mr Fox
Fantastic Mr Fox is truly one of the greats of Roald Dahl’s writing career, it is fun to read and has a character you are cheering on throughout the whole story. Mr Fox frequently steals chickens from the farm, which makes farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean very angry. One day the farmers hatch a plan to capture the troublesome fox and stop him stealing once and for all. However Mr Fox has a fantastic plan of his own. This was another one of my favourite stories that I shared with my dad. I was obsessed with one illustration in particular, when the farmers shoot off Mr Fox’s tail and Farmer Bean is left holding just the furry tail. That page and part of the story used to leave me in a fit of giggles.
I really appreciated the wholesome family values instilled in the story, how Mr Fox frequently risks his life to steal food just so his family never go hungry. The film was recently animated into a children’s filming starring the voice of George Clooney. The film was a strange adaptation but captured the right strange and sinister sense of humour, I think Dahl would have been very proud. Before I finish, I would like to share one of my favourite extracts from the story. It was this part that would make me squirm and feel nauseous,
“His food was doughnuts and goose livers. He mashed the livers into a disgusting paste and then stuffed the paste into the doughnuts. This diet gave him a tummy ache and a beastly temper”.
This is evidence of the perfect word play skills and vivid description that Dahl possessed when he wrote, when he writes, we see, smell and hear all of his words right down to the pits of our stomachs.
4- The Witches
As strange as it sounds this book gave me a sort of comfort. As a young girl I was afraid of my step mum and the thought of her being one of the witches from a Roald Dahl book gave me an excuse to use for her behaviour. She really wasn’t that bad but you know little girls and an over consuming amount of imagination, plus a Roald Dahl book collection, it was never going to end well. This story was my first real supernatural tale and I enjoyed the magic, the spells and the evil head witch. The Witches exist and walk the earth, they disguise themselves as desirable lovely ladies. However they intend on murdering every child because they despise them greatly. A young boy with the help of his grandma plan to take on the Witches and rid them of the world for good. My favourite character was always the Grandmother, I loved how warm and familiar she felt when reading. Roald Dahl said in an interview that he based the Grandmother’s character on his own mother.
This was another scary tale but I relished in the weirdness and the creepiness created by Dahl. The story was adapted into a film in 1990 starring Anjelica Huston and Rowan Atkinson. The film scared me so much as a child, when the head witch revealed herself by pulling of her wig displaying her bald and blistered head and her toes and nose grew, I hated it. When reading the story Roald Dahl’s narration gave me a form of comfort and security, I always felt safe and looked after while reading.
3- The BFG
Oh whizz pop, The BFG is one of my favourites based on the narrative, when reading the Roald Dahl type story telling was very comforting. The BFG is a dream catching giant but some of the other giants are not so nice and want to gobble up all the sleeping children. The BFG is a big friendly giant and with Sophie in his front pocket they are going to take on the Bloodbottler, the Fleshlumpeater and all their rot some friends. Obviously he is the Big Friendly Giant so he was always going to be a character you fall in love with but the giant’s attitude, tone of voice and behaviour, it’s all so calming and comforting, making it a perfect bedtime story. The main character, Sophie, is one of my favourite child characters from the Dahl books just because of her orphan background and brave little self.
Another reason for The BFG to be number three on my Roald Dahl Books List is because of the never ending list of imaginative words, every giant character has an absurdly creative name, The Childchewer, The Bonecruncher and The Gizzardgulpher. It also created the amazing word The Snozzcumber, the giant’s food that tastes of clockcoaches and slime wanglers!
2- The Twits
The Twits is my most read book from my Roald Dahl Books List, when I was younger it was my go to book when going on a journey. The Twits is about a gruesome twosome who never wash, always fight, are just revolting and hate all the pesky children. But worst of all, Mr and Mrs Twit keep monkeys in their back garden in cages and it is time for the monkeys to get revenge. I would love to believe that these characters are based on people that Roald Dahl had actually encountered and met in his life, because they are such hilariously disgusting characters.
It is this story that holds a place in my heart, it was my favourite bedtime story. My dad’s fun and playful personality when reading me the story always made it one of my favourites! My favourite chapter in particular was the bird pie, my dad used to always tell me that in the illustration (page 40, if anyone is interested) that the scrappy style of drawing is birds legs left stuck on a branch. The thought of a bird flying away and leaving his legs behind, used to make me laugh hysterically. It was also this story that made me think, that every man with a beard had cornflakes hidden within it.
… reading Matilda as a child always gave me comfort because, here was a girl that allowed me to be myself and I felt accepted…
The reason why the amazingly inspirational story of Matilda has my top spot on my Roald Dahl Books List is because it is the character I could always identify with most. For the readers who don’t know Matilda is about a little girl who gets ignored by her family and has always felt like she didn’t belong. She finds comfort in reading and developing her talents whereas her family thinks she should watch more TV. One day she goes to school and meets the mean headmistress The Trunchball, Matilda and Miss Honey decide it’s time to put her wicked ways to an end.
I was always nicknamed Bookworm in school and at home. My love of reading was not always accepted in school by some children, they just didn’t understand the enjoyment that could come from someone else’s story and someone else’s words. So reading Matilda as a child always gave me comfort because, here was a girl that allowed me to be myself and I felt accepted, this character was just like me. Inspired after reading I would walk to the library every day in my summer holidays pick my books and sit on my tyre swing and read the afternoon away. I loved walking to the library I felt independent and just like Matilda. I was so obsessed, that for a little while I was convinced there was a chance I could have had magical powers. Just so you know it never happened.