As a child–and an adult, if I’m going to be totally honest–no author has ever given me as much page by page enjoyment as Roald Dahl. He had a talent for the memorable, twisted, and truly bizarre. He understood what makes kids tick, and what creeps adults out, both in his stories and his illustrations.
He also knows just how to push the censor’s buttons. Every year, there is a petition somewhere to get the following two books removed from library shelves.
1. The Witches
No surprises here. If Harry Potter can’t get away from the sensors with its focus on witchcraft and magic, neither can a book titled The Witches. This book is about a kid who accidentally witnesses a bunch of normal women turning into witches during a big convention. He gets turned into a mouse, which leads to a lot of problems and some extremely clever scenes. The book does not exactly have a happy ending–it’s not exactly bad either, but as with many of Dahl’s books, it never quite feels like the heroes won with no strings attached.
The witches want to destroy children just because that’s what they want to do, kind of like how Gargamel was always trying to catch Smurfs, but I never really knew why. These non-cheery themes always make someone out there fuss, but the book always stays on the shelves.
I must have read this book 50 times in elementary school, which was exactly what the banners wanted to avoid. Cited for racism, violence, mystical elements, encouraging bad behavior, revolting language (the Centipede’s song is a true masterpiece of the kind of gross wordplay that kids love).
There are apparently a lot of serious issues in this book that alarm people. I’m not sure that a book about a boy and some bugs sailing through the sky on a giant piece of fruit is cause for all the yowling, but oh well–it’s not going anywhere either.
If you’re an adult and you’ve never read Dahl’s adult work, I highly recommend his short story collection. My personal favorite of his stories is “The Landlady.”
Odd work by an odd man who was an absolute treasure.
Any favorites by master Roald?
PS: If you’re looking for other banned books I’ve reviewed, click that link!
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