For his first birthday, the Little Monkey’s daddy gave him a story collection by his favorite author, Roahl Dahl. These were stories that had inspired his imagination as a child. At the age of one though, no way could those books hold that child’s attention. And, honestly, I didn’t think they would now either.
But about a month ago, he’d keep looking at them on the book shelf in his room and point saying “read, read.” Certainly, their brightly colored covers attracted his attention. For about a week I kept putting him off saying “No.” “They’re too long.” “You won’t like those because they have too many words.” “Let’s read something else.” But darn if he didn’t keep pestering me to get them down and read them. So one night I did. Thinking to myself, “Right, this will show him. I’ll read two pages and he’ll get bored and want something else.”
But you know what? He didn’t get bored and I couldn’t have been more wrong. We have read these at bedtime now for the past few weeks and have already finished The Twits, The Enormous Crocodile, The Giraffe the Pelly and Me, The Magic Finger, Esio Trot, and Fantastic Mr. Fox, With all the short ones done, we’ve just started James and the Giant Peach.
Now, I admit that I’ve never read any of these before and so it’s been my first time reading them as well. The Roald Dahl story I’m most familiar with is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but only because of the Gene Wilder version of the movie. Sometimes as I read them I wonder about the wisdom of reading a two-year old a story about a crocodile that eats children. But in the end, these stories are full of imagination, humor, and interesting characters. And the crocodile gets his in the end.
Yes, there are some more difficult themes in these books than say, Beatrix Potter, but I think it’s my job as a parent to help my child distinguish between reality and make-believe. It’s no different from when he watches television. Like, just because Peppa Pig doesn’t wear a seatbelt doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to.
There are nuggets from some of these books that have really resonated with me. Things that a person of any age could benefit from. Take this from The Twits. When explaining why Mrs. Twit was so ugly, Dahl writes:
If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.
Yes, indeed. What a good message about being optimistic and happy. Maybe if we were all shiny happy people, we wouldn’t need plastic surgeons and botox.
And the touching ending from the The Giraffe the Pelly and Me:
We have tears in our eyes
As we wave our goodbyes,
We so loved being with you, we three.
So do please now and then
Come and see us again,
The Giraffe and the Pelly and me.
All you do it to look
At a page in this book
Because that’s where we always will be.
No book ever ends
When it’s full of your friends
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me.
The power of books to stimulate a child’s imagination, to give them characters, friends, that they can come back to again and again, is a wonder. Harry Potter did that for me as an adult.
Lucky for us, if the Little Monkey continues to enjoy and want more of Roald Dahl we can go to both the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery and the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, both of which are just down the road. Nothing like taking advantage of an opportunity to bring a great stories to life.