This September 13th, we celebrate Roald Dahl’s ninety-ninth birthday, and what better way to honour the author of so many classic children’s books than to dive right into them? Everyone loves to read, especially on long car journeys where entertainment opportunities are thin on the ground. Make the experience even better with five of Roald Dahl’s best books for the road. For an added bonus, try the audiobooks so everyone in the family can enjoy Dahl’s fantastic stories.
Settle back with the second children’s novel Dahl ever wrote in James and the Giant Peach. A magical tale of a young orphan and the magical peach in his garden, this story is a worldwide favourite for its surreal imagery and vivid characters, making it impossible to put down. Published in 1961, Dahl originally planned for it to be about a giant cherry rather than a peach, but the idea didn’t stick – according to Dahl, peaches were “prettier, bigger and squishier than a cherry.”
Only three years after James and the Giant Peach came one of Dahl’s most deliciously detailed of children’s stories. Charlie and the Chocolate factory tells the adventure of Charlie Bucket and his trip to the renowned chocolate factory of the absurd and wonderful Willy Wonka - this classic tale, full of chocolatey chuckles and sickly grins, has captured the minds of countless youngsters with its sheer fantasy. The novel was said to be inspired by the real-life rivalry between Cadbury’s and Rowntree, where spies were often used to uncover sugary secrets made in factories with huge sweet-spinning machines.
Fantastic Fox 1 by Kristin/Creative Commons
Mr Fox, one of Dahl’s more cunning creations, outwits the mean and nasty farmers next door to feed his family in this brilliant story published in 1970. Though his character might seem flawed, some say Mr Fox was inspired by Dahl’s desire to portray a positive father figure for his readers. His mischievous though well-meaning antics are renowned in the world of literature, and his adventures with his friends and family make for immersive reading for young children with wild imaginations.
Dry Ice Experiment 2 by Chris Potako/Creative Commons
No one likes medicine, especially when it tastes horrible. Everyone dreams of giving someone a taste of their own, but George, in George’s Marvellous Medicine, lived that dream with his grandmother. Stirring a cocktail of only god knows what, George served her up the marvellous medicine with entertaining results in this mischievous and amusing tale of revenge. Published in 1981, the novel was inspired by Dahl’s huge respect for the medical profession, and, touchingly, is “dedicated to doctors everywhere."
0793 by Bob Peters/Creative Commons
Possibly one of Dahl’s greatest and most heart-warming creations is the story of Matilda. Published in 1988, his last long children’s novel tells the account of a young girl’s attempts to overcome her horrible parents, and show everyone just how magical she really is, with the help of her teacher, Ms Honey. The novel won the Children’s Book Award soon after it was published, and has enchanted children and adults alike ever since with its wonderful storytelling, meaningful morals and satisfying comeuppance.