When I was a little girl, my grandpa and I would read a little Dahl every night in the summer. When the sun was still high in the sky long after my bed time, and the hours stretched out until forever. We read James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mathilda, and, of course, The BFG. There wasn't a single writer we both loved the way we loved Dahl. And now I'm pleased to see there might be a new generation of fans about to discover who Roald Dahl is going to be for them. Because that's the beauty of the legendary writer; he is someone different for every one of his readers.
Dahl was a British short story writer, poet, and beloved children's book author. He was born in 1916 in Wales to Norwegian parents and died in 1990. He is considered to be one of the greatest storytellers of our time, with a singular, magical style that has often been emulated but never quite duplicated. Dahl's children's stories tended to be darker affairs with a generous helping of whimsy. His stories have been around since the 1940s, and (as an entire new crop of Dahl readers will discover when Disney releases the screen version of The BFG on Friday) truly stand the test of time.
In The BFG, Dahl tells the story of a kind orphan named Sophie and her BFG (Big Friendly Giant). The BFG brings young Sophie back to the land of giants with him, where they both live in fear of other giants not quite as friendly as the BFG. The two new friends become determined to stop the other giants from eating humans (much appreciated) and a gorgeous, sad, sweet tale ensues. That's the thing about Dahl; he takes his sweet time running his readers through the whole gamut of emotions. Fear and loss and love and laughter; it's all always there.
The same could be said for Dahl's life as well. He was the father of five children (Olivia, Tessa, Theo, Ophelia, and Lucy) with his ex-wife, screen star Patricia Neal. (watch her in Breakfast At Tiffany's, you'll thank me later). Dahl and Neal lost their daughter Olivia to measles encephalitis at the age of 7, a death from which Dahl reportedly never fully recovered. He became an activist for immunization after Olivia's death, and dedicated his 1982 book The BFG to her.
J.K. Rowling, another groundbreaking writer for children and young adults (and me!) with her Harry Potter series has credited Dahl as one of her influences and counts Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as one of her top 10 books for children. And, as a girl who still misses her own beloved Grandpa Joe, I can tell parents that Dahl's words will live on in their kids' for decades to come, especially if parents are the ones reading to them.