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broodings from the burrow

September 15, 2011

into the stacks: boy: tales of childhood
posted by soe 2:45 am

I’m out of order and behind in telling you what I’ve been reading. For the record, we’re temporarily skipping reviews of The Woman in White and The Map of True Places, which I’ll get back to soon.

Boy: Tales of Childhood, by Roald Dahl

From the jacket:
Where did Roald Dahl get all of his wonderful ideas for stories? From his own life, of course! As full of excitement and the unexpected as his world-famous, best-selling books, Roald Dahl’s tales of his own childhood are completely fascinating and fiendishly funny. Did you know that Roald Dahl nearly lost his nose in a car accident? Or that he was once a chocolate candy tester for Cadbury’s? Have you heard about his involvement in the Great Mouse Plot of 1924? If not, you don’t yet know all there is to know about Roald Dahl. Sure to captivate and delight you, the boyhood antics of this master storyteller are not to be missed!”

My take: For many years, I didn’t think I liked Roald Dahl books. Sure, occasionally a story proved to be an exception (The BFG, for instance), but it was only last summer when I suddenly got Dahl. To celebrate that fact (and because she is a wise woman), Karen gave me this short collection of autobiographical vignettes Dahl wrote toward the end of his career.

Dahl shares stories of his growing up years — his young childhood in Wales amidst his large family (headed up by his loving and delightful widowed mother). He offers up fond memories of summer vacations to his mother’s homeland, Norway. He records a few good anecdotes of his schooldays, but also some horror stories that might inspire a few children into wanting to be homeschooled to avoid such misery. And his encounters with doctors of the 1930s are best told after dark around a campfire.

Dahl’s writes as if he were a guest in your home or a favorite great-uncle regaling you with stories about a childhood long ago and far away. His humor and razor-sharp characterization here rival those in any of his novels, with his villains painted in particularly lurid hues.

I recommend this to anyone whose kids have liked Lemony Snicket’s snarky tones, the madcap adventures of Cheaper by the Dozen (either the book or the movies), or any of Dahl’s fictional work; to those who are convinced that they missed out by not attending an English boarding school; and to humor-lovers everywhere.

Pages: 176

This book fulfills the “book with a life stage in its title” portion of the What’s in a Name 4 Reading Challenge.

Category: books. There is/are 2 Comments.

It sounds like you were able to get past the ugly parts, which is a relief, both because I gave you the book and because I plan to read it myself later this year.

You know, I didn’t read any books by Dahl until after college, when you loaned me “The BFG.”

Comment by Karen 09.15.11 @ 6:05 am

I haven’t read these but I know enough of the details. Very funny -‘convinced that they missed out by not attending an English boarding school.’ Hell on earth from every account I’ve ever read. And they go, or used to go, so early, like 6 or 7 years old. Awful.

Comment by Nan 09.27.11 @ 10:04 am