Spotlight on Roald Dahl: Children’s Book Must-Haves

“Tremendous things are in store for you! Many wonderful surprises await you!” Those words emblazoned on one of Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets apply to each and every one of Roald Dahl’s children’s books. Yes, dear reader, pick up a Dahl and you’ll be immersed in a fantastical world of magical marvel where kids are almost always the heroes.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the author’s name, chances are you’re quite familiar with his work – Roald Dahl created such book-to-film favorites as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach.

Roald Dahl was born and raised in Wales and educated in a private boarding schools where strict rules and abuse caused the spirited boy to struggle. His own childhood lay the foundation for the imaginative worlds he later wrote, fantasies where children triumph against unjust situations. Both eccentric and sweet, his tales appeal to boys and girls, young and old, and no childhood would be complete without them!


By Roald Dahl

Don't let the title of this 1982 book alarm you. It's not some text-shorthand acronym for an unsavory term. The BFG is, in fact, the Big Friendly Giant, which is actually an expanded take on a short story the author wrote in 1975 entitled Danny, the Champion of the World

Sophie, the protagonist of the book, lives in an orphanage. That is, she lives there until the BFG, whose favorite pastime is blowing happy dreams to children, snatches her away. Sophie discovers there are many giants, although most are not as kind as the BFG. Together, the pair devises a plan to save the world from them.

The 2016 Disney film based on the book would be a wonderful way to follow up after reading it.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

By Roald Dahl

Whether kids are familiar with the 70’s film version, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,  or the 2005 Tim Burton adaptation (or even if they have never seen either movie at all), this book likely has something new to offer.

Charlie Bucket lives with his impoverished parents and four grandparents (who all share the only real bed in the house) and dreams of winning one of only five golden tickets that permit entrance to a tour of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Against all odds, Charlie does find the fifth and final golden ticket… but will his dreams really come true?

Kids will enjoy the book's silly and surreal characters and occurrences, but it's loaded with morals and teachable moments, as well.

Esio Trot

By Roald Dahl

Shy Mr. Hoppy has been quietly enamored with his neighbor Mrs. Silver for many years. In an attempt to win her affection, Mr. Hoppy gives her a paper on which he has written a magic phrase that will help her pet tortoise Alfie grow.

Then, Mr. Hoppy buys several more tortoises in varying sizes (all larger than Mrs. Silver’s pet) and secretly begins to swap them out so that she will believe the spell is working.

A film adaptation of this charming book was released in 2015.


By Roald Dahl

She is beyond precocious and remarkably sweet, but not all is well in Matilda’s little world. Her self-absorbed parents barely notice her and when they do, it is not in a positive manner. Her school principal has an equally unsavory view of children in general.

With the help of a sweet, caring teacher named Miss Honey and the discovery of her very special abilities, Matilda creates her own happy ending.
Kids will relate to the trials and tribulations endured by Matilda and other children in this novel. They will also delight in the way Matilda refuses to be a victim of circumstance. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox

By Roald Dahl

Published in 1970, this story is different from most other Roald Dahl children’s books in that the primary character is not a child, but a clever fox.

Because Mr. Fox is filching livestock from three unpleasant farmers, he finds himself and his family hunted down and nearly killed. Mr. Fox is sly though, and devises a way to safely feed not only his wife and four children, but also many other underground animals.

Conclude reading this book by watching the 2009 film adaptation together. In fact, why not have a Roald Dahl movie marathon with all of your favorite stories?

What are some of your favorite Dahl books to read with the kids?

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Tags : chapter books   

Sandy Connor
All childhood musts! The Twits too!
Brian Miller
YES to the book + movie marathon!