The first story that Roald Dahl had published was in a fact a short story based on his experiences in the RAF during World War Two called ‘A Piece of Cake’ in 1942. Although best known for his children’s books, Roald Dahl did have a flourishing career in adult short stories too and was even presented with three Edgar awards by the Mystery Writers of America. The first children’s book that Roald Dahl released was The Gremlins in 1943, a story inspired by RAF folklore and originally written for Walt Disney Productions.
As well known for his collaboration with Quentin Blake as his dark humour and memorable characters, the illustrations in Roald Dahl’s books are a huge part of their appeal. When asked about the lasting appeal of Roald Dahl’s children’s books Quentin Blake commented –
“He was mischievious. A grown-up being mischievious. He addresses you, a child, as someone who knows about the world. He was a grown-up – and he was bigger than most – who is on your side. That must have something to do with it.”
Nowadays, children still love to explore Roald Dahl’s characters and parents can’t wait to introduce their little ones to some of their own favourites. Characters such as Matilda, The Twits and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have become classics and children’s bookshelves are still filled with the stories that have enchanted so many little ones for so long.
Roald Dahl Fun Facts
R is for reading and the Royal Air Force. Roald Dahl never read a book while flying a plane! But he loved reading adventure stories and he joined the RAF when he was 23.
O is for Oslo – the capital of Norway, where Roald’s father came from. His mother was from Norway too and Roald was born in Llandaff, Wales in 1916.
A is for Addicted to chocolate! As a schoolboy, Roald tasted new chocolate bars for Cadbury’s. He once said “If I were a headmaster I would get rid of the history teacher and get a chocolate teacher instead.”
L is for Language. Whizzpopping and strawbunkles, hippodumplings and hushyquiet, natterbox and . . . the list of words Roald Dahl invented is endless!
D is for Drawings by Quentin Blake (or “Quent” as Roald called him). He wonderfully illustrated Roald Dahl’s stories and the two became best friends.
D is for Dream Blowing. Roald would sometimes prop a ladder against the side of his house, climb up and push a bamboo cane through his children’s window, pretending to blow dreams inside, just like The Big Friendly Giant!
A is for Anarchic! Roald Dahl invented some really rotten characters that do disgusting things – wait until you meet the Grand High Witch and the gruesome Twits. Eugghh!
H is for Hut. Roald Dahl wrote many of his books in a white hut in the garden of his home, Gipsy House. It had a yellow front door – yellow was his favourite colour.
L is for loved by millions of children (and grown-ups!). Roald Dahl died in 1990 and his stories are still popular all over the world.
Mr and Mrs Twit are two of Roald Dahl’s most memorable characters, and the book was recently voted #12 in our poll of the best books for children under 11. The story follows Mr and Mrs Twit as they carry out a number of awful pranks on each other, including a glass eye in Mr Twit’s drink and an elaborate scheme to make Mrs Twit think she was shrinking.
In this audio extract, IT Crowd and Gadget Man star Richard Ayoade brings his wit and humour to one of the pair’s nastiest practical jokes – wormy spaghetti. The full audiobook read by Richard Ayoade is available to order here.
And for all you Twits fans, we have 5 gruesome facts to share with you about those terrible Twits:
1. The Twits is the most-read book in UK primary schools. First published in 1980, those Twits are still going strong 35 years later. In 2015, Renaissance Learning’s annual survey revealed it was the most-read book in UK primary schools. And just imagine Mr Twit’s beard after 35 years…
2. Mr Twits never washes his beard – not even on Sundays
3. The Twits was another of Roald Dahl’s stories to start life as a scribble in an exercise book. Roald Dahl kept what he called his Ideas Books beside him for much of his adult life. They were old school exercise books, and he would write down ideas as they occurred to him. The Ideas Book reference for The Twits was: Beer stealing. An old boy dropped his glass eye into the tankard. He then saw it looking up at him.
4. The Twits was also partially inspired by Roald Dahl’s hatred of beards. It’s a relatively well-known fact that Roald Dahl himself couldn’t stand beards. He thought they were disgusting. Michael Rosen – writer of the biography Fantastic Mr Dahl – tells how, the first time he met Roald Dahl, Roald said to his young son Joe: It’s probably got this morning’s breakfast in it. And last night’s dinner. And old bits of rubbish, any old stuff that he’s come across. You might even find a bicycle wheel in it. And just so you know, a fear of beards is called Pogonophobia!
5. The Roly Poly Bird and Muggle-Wump and his family also appear in The Enormous Crocodile. Those nasty Twits eventually get their comeuppance when the Roly-Poly Bird and Muggle-Wump and his family band together – but this isn’t the first time those two characters had appeared in a story together. In The Enormous Crocodile, which was published two years earlier in 1978, both the Roly Poly Bird and Muggle-Wump try to stop the Crocodile getting hold of his favourite lunchtime snack – some juicy children…
Roald Dahl has inspired generation after generation with his fantastical words and memorable characters and his stories and quotes have stayed in our hearts throughout childhood and adulthood. Below we’ve included one of our favourite quotes by the man himself. Let us know your favourite Roald Dahl quote in the comments box below.
Revisit your childhood or simply share you favourite tales with your own children with the selection of Roald Dahl books available on our website today.
You can find out more about Roald Dahl and The Twits over on the Roald Dahl Blog.