Top 5: Beginner Dahl

Roald Dahl’s books are notoriously violent, scary, rude, gross, full of extremely bad behaviour and insulting language, and above all tremendously funny. Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of this, especially not when the stories are so well-written and inventive, but parents may prefer to start with some of the more ‘benign’ Dahl titles, before working their way up to James and the Giant Peach, or Matilda, or The Witches.

Lately I’ve been working my way through all of Dahl’s children’s books (he also wrote for adult audiences), and while I haven’t quite finished my “Dahl-Readathon”, I have found five titles that are more suitable for younger ages.  (A more complete Roald Dahl Overview to come once I’ve finished all the books.)

Here they are, in order of mildness…

1. Esio Trot (1990) – 62 pp.- Ages 4 +

The gentlest tale of all. No violence, no nastiness whatsoever. The story of how a shy older gentleman wins the lady of his dreams with ingenuity, patience, and a lot of tortoises. (This title on amazon.)

2. The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me (1985) – 80 pp. – Ages 4 +

A boy befriends the new window-washers in town – a rather magical team of Giraffe, Pelican and Monkey. During their first job they capture a burglar, impressing the Duke of Hampshire and securing great success for all. Generally happy and peaceful, except for one incident: burglar shoots off a gun while captured in the Pelican’s beak, creating a hole but not harming anybody. (This title on amazon.)

3. The Magic Finger (1964) – 63 pp. – Ages 4 +

A little girl teaches a family of hunters to see things from another point of view, by having them trade places with the birds they shoot at every day. Very funny. (This title on amazon.)

4. The Enormous Crocodile (1978) – 42 pp. – Ages 4 +

Very short and readable story about a crocodile with “secret plans and clever tricks.” Or so he thinks. The crocodile steals into the town intending to munch on children for lunch but the other jungle animals always call the alarm before he can succeed. In the end the elephant forcibly ejects the crocodile by flinging him all the way to the sun, where he is “sizzled up like sausage!” (The crocodile’s talk about crunching up small children might be too much for some, but it is all talk.)  (This title on amazon.)

5. Danny the Champion of the World (1975) – 196 pp, 22 chapters – Ages 5 +

A lesser known, totally sweet story of a boy with a wonderful single father who teaches him the secrets of poaching. The boy, Danny, devises a fantastic plan for the biggest pheasant heist ever, with unexpected and hilarious results. Unusual topic, yes, with a little class warfare thrown in. Much suspense during the poaching adventures, but without violence or rudeness.  Highly recommended. (This title on amazon.)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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