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Amber Paulen

Fantastical Roald Dahl

To pass into the world of Roald Dahl is to erase any preconceived division between real and imaginary. His books are the result of the marriage between these two realms, where the unbelievable and the actual entwine themselves, until the two ends inevitably fray, until one is indistinguishable from the other. What results is a dream-scape, at once fantastic and substantial, equally vital for children and adults alike. What Roald Dahl gives to his readers is the gift of endless possibilities, an escape from the restrictive society of adults into the exploratory world of children.

During my childhood Roald Dahl ruled supreme. He was the first author I followed into obsession. Then, as now, I ingest every book ever created by my chosen personal oracle, for what is acquired through repetition will never be lost. Through the fantastic yet revolting novels of Roald Dahl I gathered to me a spark, only to be satiated by an unrelenting curiosity. It is his masterful perversion, which forces life out of the serious and into the playful, where a beard is laden with roquefort cheese and grandmas eat cabbage with slugs.

Teaching third graders naturally required I pick up Roald Dahl again. For the first half of the year we read The Twits and are currently reading George’s Marvelous Medicine. Oh. . . the Twits. . . a couple so dysfunctional they find it humorous to spend time playing numerous tricks on each other. A couple so terrible and ugly that their pet monkeys eventually have no choice but to take revenge by gluing all the furniture upside down to the ceiling, resulting in the fatal contraction of the “dreaded shrinks.” These two loathsome creatures, extreme caricatures of adults, are what the students enjoyed the most. How could an eight year old pass up the opportunity to use adjectives such as ugly and stupid, hairy and beastly?

I must admit I thought the students would be overjoyed to break out of the banality of phonics and into the world of the story. Yes, it is out of the routine and for that they are glad, but most of my students have trouble reading and english is not their first language. Though what disturbs me the most is the fantasy these kids come in contact with day to day. It is the fantasy of TV, music videos and fast moving visuals, which causes my adult head to swim after a mere fifteen minutes. It is this which drowns out the patience required for reading. Though who am I to judge what these kids are actually retaining. Perhaps, and this I hope, they too are catching the spark found snaking its way through the generations. From the great storyteller to each burgeoning child it is the endlessness of possibilities inherent in each one.


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