When it comes to great writers in children’s literature, one name that is sure to come up is Roald Dahl. While he wrote a number of great books and stories for children, his most notable include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.
Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916 in Wales, the third of five children. He spent the majority of his childhood in English boarding schools, which later inspired some of his writing. He traveled throughout the world after finishing school, eventually joining the Royal Air Force. Blinding headaches ended his career in the Air Force early, and he returned to England in 1941. He married American actress Patricia Neal in 1953. Together, they had five children and were married thirty years before divorcing in 1983, after which he quickly married Felicity Dahl, who he remained married to until his death in 1990 of a rare blood disease.
Many people know Roald Dahl better through a number of popular movies that were actually based on books of his. His first book for children, Gremlins, was commissioned to be made for a Walt Disney movie, which never happened. In addition to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory books, his most popular books include James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The Witches, and The BFG, which were all eventually made into motion pictures.
His children’s books typically feature a child being mistreated in one way or another by an adult figure. Some believe that these are in reference to the abuse he experienced at boarding schools as a child himself; in fact, Dahl himself has said that his book Boy was the most closely related to his life and experiences growing up. Despite being written for children, the books often feature dark humor and a good deal of cartoonish violence.
Other famous books of Dahl’s include Fantastic Mr. Fox; Danny, Champion of the World; and he also wrote the screen play for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
While he was enjoying fame as a successful children’s author, he was also writing adult short stories. Typically, these had surprise endings and a dark sense of humor not unlike that featured in his children’s books. During his lifetime, he wrote over 60 short stories, many of which were published in Ladies Home Journal, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and Playboy. Eventually they were published into anthologies and became worldwide best sellers.
Awards and honors
The awards he received for his writing were numerous, including three Edgar awards for his short stories. He was also honored posthumously in a number of ways as well. Not long after his death in 1990, the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery was opened at Buckinghamshire County Museum in Aylesbury, not far from where he was buried.
In 2002, the Oval Basin plaza in Cardiff was renamed Roald Dahl Plass (Plass translates to plaza in Norwegian, which was a tribute to his Norwegian heritage). His widow also formed the Roald Dahl Foundation, which donates to fields of neurology, hematology, and literature. In addition to this, in 2005, the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre opened in Great Missenden to celebrate the work of the late author.
In England, Roald Dahl Day is held to honor the author’s birthday of September 13.
Roald Dahl was a beloved children’s author whose writing is sure to be enjoyed for years to come.