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The Roald Dahl Treasury
Roald Dahl
Viking Books, 444 pages

The Roald Dahl Treasury
Roald Dahl
While he was working for the Shell Oil Company in East Africa, World War II broke out and Roald Dahl joined Britain's Royal Air Force as a pilot. Later, one of his duties for the British diplomatic corps was spying on the US government in Washington. There, he met C.S. Forester, who encouraged him to draft a story about his most exciting adventure as a pilot, later published in the Saturday Evening Post. In 1960, he began writing bedtime stories for children, the first of which was James and the Giant Peach.

ISFDB Bibliography
Roald Dahl Tribute Site
Roald Dahl Tribute Site
Recommended Children's SF and Fantasy
The Children's Literature Ring

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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To most adults Roald Dahl is probably best known as the author of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Actually, most adults probably best know that story from the Gene Wilder film based on Dahl's book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Those same adults might be surprised to read Dahl's original book and find out how similar and how different it is from Wilder's film version.

The Roald Dahl Treasury is a fantastic book because it allows readers to discover exactly that. Moreover, it introduces the reader to the amazing worlds which flourished inside Dahl's head with excerpts, letters and essays, most of which have previously appeared, but many of which are seeing the printed page for the first time.

To begin, the treasury contains about twenty pages of excerpts from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Reading them gives a whole new feel to the story, much of it darker than the Wilder version. The rather innocuous song the Oompa Loopas sing when Veruca Salt falls down the garbage chute in the movie becomes infinitely darker when the original poem is read.

This darkness, actually, is one of the things which makes Roald Dahl a wonderful children's author. Unlike today's politically correct world, Dahl was not afraid of writing horror, dark humor, or other things that many modern authors seem to feel children should be protected from. His writing is reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales. The original versions of those stories are darker, but much more satisfying than the Disney or Golden Book versions. A case in point is what Dahl does when he gets his hands on Little Red Riding Hood or the Three Little Pigs (and for Hansel and Gretel, he provides a recipe for spare ribs).

Lest I give the impression that all of Dahl's writings have a dark side, I would like to point out that several of the excerpts published in The Roald Dahl Treasury are light-hearted and humorous. The childhood memoir "Conkers!" is reminiscent of portions of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It allows the adult reader to remember the inconsequential things which make childhood so memorable. For the younger reader, it gives them ideas of things to do. And for every reader it harkens back to a pre-electronic childhood.

Dahl also provides his own whimsical illustrations (an example of which can be found by looking at the cover image). The cartoonish nature of these drawings tends to lighten the mood of the darker extracts and enhance the humor of the lighter ones.

The Roald Dahl Treasury is a wonderful book for children of all ages and will allow readers to have a taste of a variety of Roald Dahl stories. Because many are extracts, it means the reader can track down the full books at their leisure and still enjoy the writing. Also because they are extracts, they are the perfect length of time for a bedtime story.

Copyright © 1997 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.


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