Top Ten Roald Dahl Children's Stories

by WiseFool

Captivating generations of children, Roald Dahl's stories are as timeless as they are funny and, sometimes, frightening.

Roald Dahl was born in Wales, to Norwegian Parents. After fighting for the Royal Air Force in World War Two, he began a career in writing.

He is known for short stories for adults, such as those dramatized in Tales of The Unexpected, and his screenplays, but chiefly he's remembered for his children's literature, which is often loved for its dark humor.

Here are just some of Dahl's best works for children.

10. Esio Trot

Mr. Hoppy lives in a high-rise flat (apartment), and is in love with Mrs. Silver, who lives one floor below.

However, the course of true love doesn't run smoothly, because Mrs. Silver only has eyes for Alfie...her pet tortoise.

How can Mr. Hoppy possibly compete with such a rival for his lady's affections? 

Well, he comes up with an ingenious plan, involving riddles and a plethora of tortoises.

The question is: will Mr. Hoppy's scheme result in a 'happily ever after' for him, Mrs. Silver and, of course, Alfie?

This is certainly not a run of the mill romantic comedy. It's a riduclously funny, extremely imaginative and highly unusual love story.

It's definitely one of those great Dahl children stories that can be enjoyed by all ages.

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9. The Twits

Mr. and Mrs. Twit are unhygienic, ugly and stupid. They are cruel to children and animals.

And the great enjoyment of their lives is playing horrid tricks on one another.

This unpleasant pair has a family of pet monkeys, and they amuse themselves by getting the creatures to stand upside-down.

Then, the Roly-Poly bird appears on the scene and, together with the monkeys, concocts a plan to teach the Twits a lesson.

This is one of Roald Dahl's shorter stories and is a delightful story of revenge.

The Twits are an example of Dahl's horrid and grotesque characters.

There is something very charming about the animals exacting revenge, and this is certainly one of the great appeals of the story.

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8. George's Marvelous Medicine

Poor George is left with the responsibility of ensuring his grandmother takes her medicine. Unfortunately, George's grandmother is a cantankerous old biddy, with some very unpleasant eating habits.

But George has a plan.

He sets about concocting a medicine to 'cure' his grandmother of her unpleasantness. Fittingly, the medicine is just as horrible as she is.

George's Marvelous Medicine is a wonderful tale of a child teaching a nasty adult a lesson. Many of Dahl's stories have this fairy tale quality about them, and this is just one reason for their longevity.

The reader is bound to relate to George's plight and feel elated when his plan begins to take effect.

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7. Boy

Boy is an autobiographical work by Dahl, which tells the story of his youth.

It affords the reader an opportunity to recognize some of the sources for his later work.

For example, Dahl writes of his memories of tasting chocolate for Cadbury's. Hmm, I wonder what story that could have inspired...

It is wonderfully written and very entertaining. The stories of Roald Dahl's own childhood are just as fascinating, fanciful and fun as his fiction.

6. James and The Giant Peach

James is an orphan. His parents were killed by a rampaging rhinoceros outside London Zoo (a scenario we can all relate to).

Since then, James has lived with his horrible aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. The nasty old women make James do all the hard work around the house. They treat him like a slave and make his life an absolute misery. What's more, they never allow him to go beyond the garden fence.

One day, however, something magical occurs to James and he is whisked away from his humdrum life and propelled into an amazing adventure beyond his wildest dreams.

This is another story which is very much reminiscent of a fairy tale. The orphan, who is badly treated by extended family members, has echoes of Cinderella to it.

However, as always, Dahl adds his own unique spin to things. Roald Dahl's distinctively grotesque characters and gruesome situations are extremely appealing to children...and adults alike.

Read or Watch James and The Giant Peach

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5. Danny The Champion of The World

Danny's mother died when he was just four months old.

So, Danny and his father became the whole world to each another. Danny idolizes his dad and is surprised to learn that his father has a secret.

Danny's father has been sneaking out at night and poaching pheasants.

This leads the pair into an outrageous and dangerous scheme...and a whole lot of trouble.

Danny the Champion of The World is one of Dahl's more naturalistic novels.

It's a very heart-warming and moving story about the bond between father and son.

The story was adapted into a film in 1989, starring Jeremy Irons and featuring his own son, Samuel, as Danny.

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4. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

Charlie's family is very poor. In fact, all four grandparents live in one bed in the middle of the room.

Charlie is fascinated by the local chocolate factory and its mysterious owner, Willy Wonka. One day Wonka announces that he will open the doors of his factory to five lucky children: the finders of five golden tickets.

Although Charlie's family cannot afford to buy lots of chocolate, a stroke of good fortune puts Charlie in possession of a golden ticket. He and his grandpa, Joe, embark on the trip of a lifetime around the most amazing chocolate factory in the world.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of Dahl's most well-known and best loved books. It is essentially a rags to riches story, which has evergreen appeal. It combines the wonderfully fanciful aspects of Dahl's writing with a realism all readers can relate to.

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3. The B.F.G.

Sophie lives in an orphanage. It is a horrible place and she's miserable there. But one day, she is scooped up by a giant and taken to the 'giant world'. Unbeknownst to Sophie, this giant does not want to eat her. He is a friendly giant.

However, the other giants are not so amiable and spend their evenings snatching children from their beds and eating them.

Soon, the world of the humans collides with the world of the giants, and it is up to Sophie and the B.F.G. to stop the giants' malicious ways.

This is a wonderfully funny story, which has all the elements of gruesomeness that are expected from a Roald Dahl book.

Oddly, most children far from being scared of these elements of the story revel in them. Again, Dahl uses a protagonist who is an orphan (he seems to favour characters who are loners). Likewise, the B.F.G is a loner, he is very different from his fellow giants. It's a wonderful literary device to have these two, who are ostensibly so different, form such a strong bond of friendship.

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2. Matilda

Matilda is a child genius, but her parents couldn't care less. Her father is too busy selling dubious used cars, and her mother is too busy playing bingo. In fact, the Wormwoods despise the intellectual ambitions of their daughter.

When Matilda starts school, she is confronted with the horrendous headteacher, Miss. Trunchbull, who torments all the children, and even the teachers, particularly Matilda's teacher, Miss. Honey.

However, Matilda soon realises that she can use the power of her mind to achieve more than she ever imagined. So, she sets about punishing the horrible adults in her life.

This is a wonderful book, which has remained a firm favourite. Dahl puts his vivid imagination to great use in Matilda.

This is also one of the most successfully adapted of Roald Dahl's books: the fabulously funny film version directed by, and starring Danny DeVito, with a very memorable performance from Pam Ferris as the domineering Miss. Trunchbull.

Read Matilda or Watch the Movie

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1. The Witches

What would you do if you learned that witches were everywhere? Of course, there are the tell-tale signs: witches are bald, so they are forced to wear wigs that itch incessantly. They must wear gloves to cover their hideous hands, and, to them, all children smell like dogs' droppings.

Witches live in every country across the world. Most fearsome of all is the Grand High Witch, who is the leader of the world's witches. The witches plan to eliminate every single child by turning them all into mice.

One young boy and his grandmother must stop them.

The Witches is a fantastically funny book, which seems to be more scary for adults than the children it was intended for. Undoubtedly, on the surface, it seems an inappropriate subject for children's consumption.

However, it is not really any worse than the Grimm's fairy tales. The truth is that children love these types of stories and The Witches is one of the most well-written and well-loved children's books ever. And it will probably remain so!

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The above list is, of course, subjective. These are my top ten Roald Dahl children's books, and, incidentally, my favorites haven't altered much since my childhood. But what about your favorites? Did I miss a Roald Dahl classic you love, or would you rate the books I have mentioned differently?

Updated: 06/28/2014, WiseFool
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Guest on 06/29/2014

I honestly couldn't say, WiseFool. It's probably a bit of both. I ought to recognise the loner child characters after all, but I still didn't get on with them.

WiseFool on 06/29/2014

Hey DutsyToes, yes, I remember Revolting Rhymes, that was another one I loved. Didn't include it in the list because it's a book of poems rather than a story, but great nonetheless.

WordChazer, sorry to hear he's not your bag. Good on you for giving him a fair crack, though! Do you think it's the type of stories or his actual writing style that doesn't float your boat?

Guest on 06/29/2014

I buck the trend. I loathe Roald Dahl's books. He was and remains a fabulously influential writer, no doubt about that, Personally, however, he is not to my taste. I've tried most of those above in either book or (occasionally) film form as a child and in some cases again as an adult and just not been able to get on with them. I can't put my finger on the reasons why I dislike his writing so much. I just do.

dustytoes on 06/29/2014

I don't see it listed here, but I think he had a book entitled "Revolting Rhymes" which was another fave. Boys especially love that stuff.

WiseFool on 06/29/2014

Hi Dustytoes! Like your son, I used to love all of the books when I was young. And I've noticed now, coming back to them as an adult, just how good they are (not just as "kids" books)...and I've realized just how twisted children are!

dustytoes on 06/28/2014

My oldest son was a big fan of Roald Dahl and read most of his books. I think his favorites were The Twits and George's Marvelous Medicine.

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