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Essential stories, Twits, and Philip Pullman

Happy day, my son is finally old enough to appreciate Roald Dahl.  It might sound silly, but I’ve been waiting for this.  When he was six months old I bought him a big paperback set of Dahl’s books at a yard sale in Denver.  Every few months I’d read him a couple of lines, and every few months, he’d ignore me.  But no more!

What this means is that last night I got to read The Twits out loud.  And of course, he gets to step into the worlds that only Dahl could have created. Seriously, if you haven’t read The Twits, please do. You’ll get through it in less than an hour and you’ll smile while you’re reading it, I can almost guarantee it. 

I’ve been surprised again at how much I love these books, and by how much I still love children’s books in general.  I love them because,while they are hilarious and moving and brilliant, they are also pure story, with little or zero extraneous material.  Children’s stories propel you across the pages in the same way that the best fairy tales do.  Every sentence moves the plot.

Not only do some novels clutter up their pages with stuff that doesn’t need to be there, there are plenty of novels that barely tell a story at all.  I’m not saying this is bad, only that it’s different than in juvenile literature.

Philip Pullman said this a lot better than I can in his Carnegie Medal Acceptance speech. Also, I’m about halfway into his Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm and it is fantastic.

Tonight we’ll be starting the Bird Pie section.  I can’t wait.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • The Geezers February 12, 2013, 6:38 am

    My kids—not to mention me—loved The Twits and all the Roald Dahl books. My son was especially fond of James and the Giant Peach.

    I don’t know the Fairy tales book, but the entire Golden Compasss series was wonderful, so I’ll surely have to look this one up.

  • Avil Beckford February 12, 2013, 7:20 am


    I read my first Roald Dahl book over the weekend, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and it was a delight. So it is fascinating to me that you mentioned Dahl today. Avil

    • Josh Hanagarne February 12, 2013, 10:34 am

      Avil, Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator is even better. Keep going!

  • Dorothy February 12, 2013, 8:57 am

    I remember saving my daughter’s books for my son, and looking forward to the day when he moved from Richard Scarry to books with words. My children are now 20 and 26. I read to them until they became teenagers. We loved all the Roald Dahl books. We also loved Chris van Allsburg. I read The Stranger and other van Allsburg books to them because I said there were extra jokes included for the adults, and we admired his beautiful illustrations.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 12, 2013, 10:34 am

      Someone recommended The Stranger to me last year and I couldn’t believe the art. So good.

  • Lynn February 12, 2013, 3:23 pm

    My favorite books to reread with Son were the Frog and Toad books. Hilarious! And so post-modern.
    Also, I know you will not believe this, but I had never read Alice in Wonderland until I read it with Son. That was fun also.
    I’ve really enjoyed the books I read out loud to him, especially Hugo Cabret.

  • Cat Ransom February 12, 2013, 10:22 pm

    My 8-year-old is really enjoying BFG (Big Friendly Giant) being read to her by her teacher. She adores the word “disgusterous” and others Dahl made up for it. We take turns reading aloud to each other (me mostly but she reads too). I’ve read to her since she was about 6 months old. The effort is being paid back 100-fold! We (parents) are so blessed to be able to read these books again for the first time! c. 😉

    • Josh Hanagarne February 13, 2013, 1:43 pm

      BFG is one of the best. It’s hard not to love “disgusterous.”

  • Ara Bedrossian February 14, 2013, 7:11 am

    Perhaps the most important role of a human being is influencing the development of another human being. I can imagine your son’s reaction was pretty special.
    I will look up The Twits. I’ve only read snippets of Dahl. I remember The Pig. I enjoyed that. Check it out, if you haven’t.