Roald Dahl, author of two of my favorite children’s books, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was born on September 13th, 1916. My first introduction to his work was in a grade school classroom in Georgetown, CO. I was in second grade, but taking some classes with third-graders, and one or two with fourth-graders. I don’t remember which class, exactly, had a teacher who spent the last twenty minutes of every day – or maybe every Friday – reading us great stories.
James and the Giant Peach was one of those stories. Another was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, but that book is by E. L. Konigsburg and thus relegated to another post.
In any case, while I was researching something completely different, I came upon a newsletter from Cambridge University talking about the celebration of Roald Dahl Day next week, and about the 50th anniversary of James and the Giant Peach.
The essay is by Professor Maria Nikolaejeva. An excerpt is below, and the full text of the essay can be found here
Dahl is one of those many writers who are significantly more famous for their children’s books than their works for a general (that is, adult) audience. Although his short stories are truly brilliant, he would hardly be hailed exclusively for them among the “50 greatest British writers since 1945” (The Times, 5 January 2008). The fact that this canon includes a number of children’s writers (beside Dahl, C S Lewis, Philippa Pearce, Allan Garner, Philip Pullman and Rosemary Sutcliff) is remarkable in itself; it demonstrates that children’s literature cannot any longer be dismissed as second-rate; and I would argue that Roald Dahl has contributed substantially to this recognition, repeatedly mentioned as the best-loved, best-selling author without the, regrettably, still derogatory appellation “children’s”.
(I refrained from changing the punctuation from British to American.)