I have always been taught to start at the beginning, which seemed like sage advice when I wanted to explore some of the children’s stories that Roald Dahl crafted over his long and illustrious career. Choosing this work, apparently his first stab at children’s literature, proved highly entertaining and a wonderful way to spend a few hours. After an accident claims the life of his parents, young James Henry Trotter is sent to live with his wicked aunts, facing a period of miserable adjustment. While out one day, he encounters a man who offers him a sack of magical beans that will, so the tale goes, react marvellously with the first living thing they encounter. James brings them home and while outside, the beans escape at the base of an old peach tree that has not shown any signs of life for many years. James witnesses a peach growing larger than anything he has ever seen in all his years and soon approaches it. He discovers a number of other creatures that have reacted with the beans, including a grasshopper, an earthworm, and a ladybug. Crawling inside a hole within this peach, James escapes the confines of his yard and sets about on an adventure with his new-found friends. Rolling through town, they eventually make their way to the open waters and find themselves marooned in the middle of the Atlantic. James and his ‘pesty’ friends use their wherewithal and conquer numerous enemies as they tackle a number adventures before them. James, in turn, learns the importance of new and exciting friendships, leaving some of the sorrow of his past behind him. Dahl at his best, proves how he became a household name amongst children’s authors.
As part of my 2017 reading goals, I thought I would pave the way and return to reading some of the classic books from my youth, in hopes of introducing them to my son in the coming years. Dahl has a way of telling a great story that will appease the young reader while also instilling great values and ideals into their little minds, sure to please parents and other adults. The stories have a degree of silliness, but also adventure and excitement, allowing the reader’s interest to be piqued to forge onwards a little more. While some books out there seek to create a spark amongst children by addressing modern characters and technologies, Dahl’s ideas and presentation are timeless, which I would venture to say might spurn children whose attention span has been whittled down by games and electronics to turn to these stories and take a moment to absorb all that is going on from chapter to chapter. Timeless classics are hard to discover in this fast-paced world, but Dahl has left these stories as breadcrumbs to discovering the wonders of early reading.
Kudos, Mr. Dahl for introducing me to reading and the love of books. I hope to bring another generation of readers up to see the wonders of your storytelling abilities.