Tag Archives: Children’s books

She Was Beautiful and Loyal to the End

“I’ve got a new friend, all right. But what a gamble friendship is! Charlotte is fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty—everything I don’t like. How can I learn to like her, even though she is pretty and, of course, clever?”

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Survey Monday


“We Have So Much Time And So Little To Do”

Without knowing how many of you will actually read this post, I am willing to wager a $5.00 bet that at least once in your childhood, you either read a book, or saw a movie about a book, by Mr. Roald Dahl.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last 50 years, and by some weird chance you don’t recognize the name, Mr. Dahl is the author of a number of very popular children’s AND adult’s books. I won’t list them all here (if you’d like a list of them all, please go to the website) but I will tell you three of my favorites are James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’d like to share with you some of what I learned about Mr. Dahl while doing my research for this post.

According to the “bio” information on the Roald Dahl website, Mr. Dahl was born to his Norwegian parents in Llandaff, Wales in the U.K. His mother was a story-teller by nature and provided Roald and his sisters with a deep sense of security. His father was an astute observer who kept detailed diaries of current events. Roald Dahl did not enjoy his school-aged years. While attending prep school, he remembers a school matron “who disliked small boys very much indeed” and a cane-wielding headmaster, both of which eventually morphed into Miss Trunchball, the hateful and horrible headmistress in Matilda. Amazingly enough, while attending public school, one of his school teachers felt that Dahl was “quite incapable of marshalling his thoughts on paper”.

However, he did have a few bright spots during his school years and interestingly enough, they involved candy. In his younger days, Dahl recalls standing in front of candy store windows with his friends as they contemplated the mysteries of certain candies like “gobstoppers” and “sherbert suckers”. In Derbyshire, where he attended public school, the Cadbury Chocolate Factory was located nearby so the students were often given free chocolate for testing purposes. On a side note, it was not uncommon for factories to send spies in to their rivals’ factories in an attempt to learn trade secrets. Here were the seeds of the stories to come.

His first children’s book was not James and the Giant Peach, as everyone believes but instead was a book entitled, The Gremlins and was a picture book written for Disney. Disney originally intended to make a movie based on the book but it never happened. Shortly after Disney decided to drop the project, Roald Dahl began writing for adults and did so for the next 15 years. He wrote frequently for the Saturday Evening Post, Atlantic Monthly, and Harper’s.  He won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America three times and was also a writer for the television series, Tales of the Unexpected. His short stories and books for adults were hailed by critics as “dark”, “funny”, “inventive”, and “imaginative”.

It wasn’t until Dahl had children of his own and began telling them bedtime stories, did he begin writing stories for children. His books have been published in 34 languages and have won numerous awards.

In 3rd grade, my teacher, Miss Pruski, used to read to us after we came back to the classroom after recess. The class would quiet down and we would sit expectantly as Miss Pruski picked a book to read to us. When she started with a new book, she would tell us the title and the author. She would show us the book and we would discuss the cover art and the synopsis. Then she’d begin. She’d read about a chapter a day. Sometimes we’d listen to her read that book for a few days, sometimes for a week, sometimes, a little longer. Her trick was to get us to a point in the book where we needed to move forward, to find out what was going to happen. After several days of reading to us, just as we were getting to the meat of a good story, she would abruptly put the book away and inform us if we wanted to know what happened in the book, we would have to go to the library and check the book out. It was in this way that I discovered James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Charlotte’s Web (we’ll be talking about E.B. White in the near future).

Roald Dahl was a master of children’s books because he remembered what it was like to be a kid. He remembered what it was like to be scared of principals, to hate school, to love school, to have a crush on your teacher, to feel like the most deprived kid on earth, and to feel like the richest kid there ever was. He remembered what it felt like to crave something you couldn’t afford or the feeling you got as a kid when you bit into that candy bar you saved up all your pennies for. Roald Dahl tapped into childrens’ psyche better than anyone and his books continue to entertain and engage us. When you begin reading a book by Roald Dahl, you are a kid again and there’s a magic in those books that very few authors have been able to replicate.

On the market today, a 1996 first edition of James and the Giant Peach will run you about $7.00 and up. A 1973 near fine edition starts at about $50.00 and goes up. A 1961 first edition, later printings starts at roughly $200.00 and a 1962 signed first edition, first printing in fine condition will cost you about $12,500.00!

A 1996 first edition of Matilda starts at about $10.00. A 1988 first edition, first printing starts at $30.00 and works it’s way up to $400.00 for a signed near fine copy.

A 1976 first edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starts at about $$15.00. A 1964 first edition, later printing (like the one pictured here) starts at about $75.00. A rare 1964 first edition/first printing starts at $995.00 and a signed version of that book begins selling at $7500.00 and works its way up to $19,250.00 for a signed first edition/first printing in very fine condition.

I share these prices with you, my readers, so you are aware of what you may have lying around in your attic AND so that you may know the depths of love and joy Dahl’s readers take in his books. I hope that you have had the opportunity to do the same and if you haven’t, you really owe it to yourself to do so.

FYI, the Royal Mail, U.K., is honoring Roald Dahl with postage stamps. The link to purchase some is here.


Nothing But Desolate Wastes and Fierce Beasts!

“A Wangdoodle would eat ten of them for breakfast and think nothing of it. And so, I said, ‘Come and live with me in peace and safety, away from all the Wangdoodles, and Hornswogglers, and Snozzwangers, and rotten, Vermicious Knids.'”


A Straight Line is NOT the Shortest Distance Between Two Points

While I’m on my time travel kick (have you visited the old Messerman mansion, lately?), I suppose quite a few of you already know, “there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

If you didn’t read A Wrinkle in Time when you were a kid, you and I need to have a serious discussion. We’re not talking about just time travel, we’re talking off-planet travel AND time travel! A simple child’s mix of particle physics, Einstein, relativity, and good vs. evil, A Wrinkle in Time was formed from questions and discoveries of science and a life in the cold war of the 1960’s and took us to places not many girls dared to travel.

Original Cover Illustrated by Ellen Raskin

If the term “drama queen” had been common place in the mid 1960’s, Meg Murray might have been labeled a drama queen. She doesn’t think she’s smart, she doesn’t think she’s pretty, and she walks around with a big chip on her shoulder just daring someone to knock it off. I suppose in some ways, she has a right to be sullen and somewhat resentful, though. Her father left for a top-secret job and never returned. Her mother is a brilliant scientist who is absorbed in her work and with dealing with town gossips talking about the husband that abandoned her. Meg’s middle brothers are fairly well adjusted and don’t understand why Meg can’t just conform. And Meg’s younger brother, Charles Wallace, is small for his age, extremely intelligent, and doesn’t speak in front of strangers which makes him the perfect target for bullying.

This sets the stage for a story that captured the imaginations of children and adults everywhere. The first of a planned trilogy, which eventually became a tetralogy (often referred to as The Time Quartet), author Madeleine L’Engle told a story of a young girl in flux. An adolescent, pre-teen, who is learning the hard way that people can be mean and not so understanding when you feel as though the world is crashing down upon you. But, in the middle of all this misery, she learns how important her family is and she also discovers that love can be found in the most unexpected places.

Madeleine L’Engle wrote that in the process of trying to publish this book, it was formally rejected by 26 publishers. On the Random House website, in a section entitled, “A Special Message from Madeleine L’Engle“,  Ms. L’Engle wrote “‘A Wrinkle in Time’ had a female protagonist in a science fiction book, and that wasn’t done. And it dealt with evil and things that you don’t find, or didn’t at that time, in children’s books. When we’d run through forty-odd publishers, my agent sent it back. We gave up.”

The book, which blended adult themes, science fiction, and fantasy, went on to win numerous awards including a Newbery Award Medal, a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and it was a runner-up for the Hans Christian Anderson Award. A Wrinkle in Time has been in continuous publication since it was first published in 1962.

I first read this book when I was in the fourth grade and still have my original paperback copy. While I was in my 20’s, I purchased a new set of the collection (in paperback) and then a few years ago, I purchased a hardcover copy of The Time Quintet. About a year ago, I came across a copy of the first edition (pictured) in its 31st printing. It had the original dust jacket and was inscribed by Ms. L’Engle herself. Her inscribed books are selling on the market starting at $100.00 all the way up to $20,350.00 for a 1st edition/1st printing in fine condition.

January 27, 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time. A Wrinkle in Time: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition is available now on Amazon. Just click the link or the picture below to go straight to Amazon’s page to purchase this commemorative edition. According to Amazon’s website, this redesigned edition includes “an introduction by Katherine Paterson, an afterword by Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis that includes photographs and memorabilia, the author’s Newbery Medal acceptance speech, and other bonus materials.

For more information on Madeleine L’Engle and ALL the books she’s written (including the rest of the Time Series), go to her website at www.madeleinelengle.com and Happy Tessering, everyone!


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