Tag Archives: Roald Dahl

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl illustrations by Quentin Blake

wp-1469372593956.jpgFollowing on from my last post about the summer reading challenge and the discovery that this year marks the 100th year since Roald Dahl was born I thought I’d review another of his great books Fantastic Mr Fox.

The edition of the book we have is dated 2016 and was published by Puffin Books however it was first published in 1970 by George Allen and Unwin.

The story is about a fox family and the head of the family is Mr Fox or as Mrs Fox calls him Fantastic Mr Fox. They live on a hill in the wood under a large tree. Below is the valley where 3 farmers live farmer Boggis kept chickens, farmer Bunce kept duck and geese and farmer Bean was a turkey and apple farmer. All 3 were mean and no one liked them.

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Mr Fox would go to each of these farms and have the best choice of food from each. However one night the farmers have had enough and wait for Mr Fox to try and shoot him dead. Here begins the story of how crafty Mr Fox and the other animals living in the wood find a way to outsmart the farmers and live in harmony together.

For the older reader the story could be used to examine how foxes are classed as pests for farmers stealing and killing their animals. It could also be used to talk about hunting and there is a great number of descriptive language used which could be useful for students studying this topic.

For the younger child such as 7 year old Monkey it was a great adventure to read what the farmers would try next and to see how Mr Fox would escape.

Monkey enjoyed this story and thought the farmers were “silly”. He rated the book as 7/10 as it wasn’t as funny as other Roald Dahl books.

I remember reading this when I was a child however I was older than Monkey and read it one wet Easter when I was about 9 or 10 therefore at that age I could understand the darker side of the Fox family being hunted and knew that Mr Dahl would have ensured this fox family would come to no harm unlike other foxes. As an adult reading this to Monkey I enjoyed it possibly more than I did as a child and as it had been a while since I had read it I couldn’t remember all of the story. The parts of the story about the farmers trying to plot to kill the family and in particular Mr Fox and the worried fox children in the below page “how will they kill us mummy” I didn’t enjoy but this was only because I know how sensitive Monkey can be thankfully he was enjoying the adventure and the sad parts like this are well balanced with the calmness of Mr Fox and the outlandish ideas the farmers have to capture him. I give this story 8/10.

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Summer Reading Challenge 2016

A selection of books you might find in your library

A selection of books you might find in your library for your own Summer Reading Challenge

It’s that time again with school summer term coming to a close and then a long hot (well we live in hope in the UK) summer. It’s a time where as a child I rarely went home only going home when playing outside with friends to either get something to eat or drink.

As summer goes on and friends leave for their holidays or you just want some quiet time, reading a book or several during the summer is perfect especially sitting out in the garden in the shade or in the sun.

Have you heard of The Summer Reading Challenge for children? This is the UK’s biggest reading promotion for children run by The Reading Agency and in library’s.

The challenge is for children to read 6 books throughout the summer holidays, the books don’t need to be specific titles they can be non fiction, fiction, joke books, comics, picture books, audio books basically anything your child enjoys reading counts towards the challenge but they must be borrowed from the library. The children need to be aged 4-11 years old. The Challenge started in Scotland on Saturday 25th June and in England and Wales it started on Saturday 16th July.

The Reading Agency states children’s reading practice can dip in the summer holidays, I know from experience my son last year lost interest as soon as school finished (he was only 6 at the time) and this year before he heads off to the junior school in September I want to ensure he reads during the holidays.

The website continues to say “The Summer Reading Challenge has helped get three quarters of a million children into libraries each year to keep up their reading skills and confidence. Because everything changes when we read”.

The Reading Agency have released a book collection list of 72 suggested books to read the list is divided into two – one for younger children and one for older children. A lot of these are new reads which will be published this summer, and many will be displayed in libraries. You can find the list here

There is a different theme each year. The theme for the 2016 Summer Reading Challenge is The Big Friendly Read as it’s the 100th year since Roald Dahl was born.

The Big Friendly Read, features some of Roald Dahl’s best loved characters and the amazing artwork of illustrator, Sir Quentin Blake. It highlights themes such as invention, mischief and friendship all of which appear in Roald Dahl’s most famous books.

Everyone who joins The Big Friendly Read will receive a fold up card wallet, which includes a range of fun activities and space for children to keep track of their progress and rate the books they have read. There are six limited edition Quentin Blake collector cards to collect; some are scratch and sniff!  These slot into the collector folder. Each card celebrates a popular Roald Dahl theme: mischief, invention, adventure, wordplay, child champions, and friendship.  Children will receive one card for every book they read and those who complete the challenge will receive a certificate.

For adults and carers there’s a Facebook page which you can find here

Another great website supporting this is the Summer Reading Challenge it tracks children’s reading all year round, children can enter competitions, has links to YouTube videos about the challenge and author reviews, children can review books, leave messages, it gives book suggestions children have recommended and can be searched by age/gender there are also recommendations from celebrities. The website also has book related games for children to play they include previous games from other summer reading challenges;

  • “Race against the clock to fill in the book title blanks with Title Dash game”
  • “Find unicorn friends as you race around Mythical Maze game”
  • “Chase bats and escape from ghouls in Creepy House”
  • “Help Jeremy save his books from Aesop in Story Lab game”

Visit your local library and join up to the challenge and get involved in the fun activities many libraries offer – there’s a chocolate challenge at our local library next week to celebrate Charlie and the Chocolate Factory you never know what you’ll find at your own library so go and investigate!

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James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

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This is a classic Roald Dahl book, it was first published in 1961 the edition we have is from 2001 published by Puffin Books. Illustrated as always by Quentin Blake, the illustrations in this book are outstanding and have a lot more detail than some other illustrations in Roald Dahl’s books.

The story starts with James living with his parents however something terrible happened one day which means James has to go and live with his 2 horrible aunts Spiker and Sponge who make James do all the jobs, never let him go and play, are always shouting at him and he’s not allowed to go further than the bottom of the garden so he never gets to see anyone other than his aunts.

That is until one day something magical happens and so begins the adventure of a lifetime with some unusual new friends.

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I had tried reading this story myself several times when I was a young child but hadn’t got very far. I thought when I started reading it to Monkey it had just been because of some of the old fashioned words which I wasn’t familiar with at the time had put me off however I think it was in part also because within the first chapter there is talk of death. I started reading this story to Monkey before his 7th birthday and I will be honest I had completely forgotten what the story was about and had simply took it from his shelf one night to read at bedtime. It was only as I started reading it that I realised we’d never really read a book involving a death least of all one about the death of parents. I did consider putting it back on the shelf for some other time but after asking Monkey whether I should continue he told me to carry on. If you have a sensitive child the book does get happier after chapter 5 (which is how many chapters I read that first evening as I didn’t want to leave him with something sad).

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The story unlike many other Roald Dahl books is less obviously funny and after reading it I suggest it’s perhaps more suited to an older child although Monkey did enjoy some of the story and thought the creatures were funny. Monkey gave the book 4/10 as he simply didn’t think it was as funny as previously read Roald Dahl books. I give the book 7/10 I’m pleased I finally got to read it all and was able to explain the old fashioned words to Monkey but I didn’t think it was as enjoyable.

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The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl

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Roald Dahl books are characteristically funny and part of many people’s childhood, I for one have been a fan for many years and yet I have never read this story before so it was a great read to have at bedtime with Monkey just before his 7th birthday.

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The story is about a boy called Billy who dreams of having a sweet shop One day the abandoned building he has past many times before had been bought when much to his astonishment a bathtub comes flying out of the second floor window crashing in the middle of the road. However more surprising than this more things follow the bathtub in the same manner through the window – lavatory pan, kitchen sink, empty canary cage, four poster bed, hot water bottles, rocking horse and a sewing machine! Then silence – Billy decided to visit again the next day to see what happened next!

The next day in the window of this bizarre building is a sign “The Ladderless Window Cleaning Company. Get your windows cleaned without a lot of dirty ladders leaning against your house”

Billy soon discovers the owners of this company are not people they are instead a singing Pelican, Giraffe and a monkey!

Billy helps this unlikely group and together become the best of friends having exciting fun washing windows for a Duke and becoming heroes.

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This edition was published by Puffin Books in 2001 and was first published in 1985. The accompanying illustrations by Quentin Blake are as equally great as they are in all of Roald Dahl’s books.

Monkey thought this book was very funny and each night couldn’t wait for me to read the next instalment and I often found him sitting in bed looking through the book to see what was going to happen next! Monkey gave this book 8/10 as he thought George’s Marvellous Medicine was better. I give this book 8/10 only because I wished it was longer and I was expecting a different ending. My favourite quote though is at the end sang by the Monkey “All you do is to look at a page in this book because that’s where we always will be. No book ever ends when it’s full of your friends, the Giraffe and the Pelly and me”.

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George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

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Roald Dahl books and the accompanying illustrations of Quentin Blake don’t need much of an introduction as they have been part of most people’s reading at some point or other either as a child or to your own children. George’s Marvellous Medicine is one such book. I remember quite well being 7 years old and having this story read to my classmates and I by a very enthusiastic young student teacher.

The story is about a young boy who lives on a farm with his mum, Dad and his Grandma. His Grandma is not the cuddly rosy checked Grandma that bakes cookies and knits thick woolly jumpers. No George’s Grandma would not be described like that at all. She was instead a grumpy little old woman who didn’t like people, wasn’t interested in playing board games and never smiled. She spent her time sitting by the window grumbling and complaining.

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His Grandma doesn’t seem to like children and George is no exception. One day she says some truly scary things to George whilst he is alone with her “some of us have magic powers that can twist the creatures of this earth into wondrous shapes”… “some of us have fire on our tongues and sparks in the tips of our fingers”. “Some of us know secrets that would make your hair stand on end and your eyes pop out of their sockets”. “We know how to make your nails drop off and teeth grow out of your finger nails instead”.

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Scary…

To this George come up with a plan to replace the medicine given to Grandma 4 times a day with his own concoction which has some fantastic results. I won’t say more on that as for those of you who either haven’t yet enjoyed this book or perhaps you can’t remember it from your childhood you will be fascinated and surprised at the extraordinary results of George’s truly marvellous medicine.

The edition we have was published in 2001 by Puffin Books however it was first published 35 years ago in 1981!

Monkey enjoyed this story more than some previous stories. I read this to him just before his 7th birthday which seemed the right sort of age onwards to enjoy this story.

Monkey particularly enjoyed the parts of the story that focuses on the ingredients used for the medicine (as they are quite unusual) and also enjoyed what happened to those who have the medicine.

There’s many extensions you could do after reading this story such as make your own potion with water and food colouring, write your own marvellous recipe, or bake some cookies like we did adapting the recipe but adding extra chocolates chips and marshmallows (delicious)! There’s also some great activities I found via Pinterest just search George’s Marvellous Medicine activities.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this as I had forgotten some parts of the story and looked forward to the bedtime story as much as Monkey did which is the best sort of bedtime story to have.

Monkey gave this story 10/10 and I also give it 10/10. Superb writing a true children’s classic which is still enjoyable to adults.

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Esio Trot by Roald Dahl

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It seems another classic Roald Dahl book passed me by as a child as I hadn’t read Esio Trot until I read it to Monkey.

This edition is from 2001 published by Puffin Books however was first published in 1990. As usual the illustrations are by Quentin Blake.

The story is about how two neighbours Mr Hoppy and Mrs Silver are brought together by a tortoise, yes you read that right a tortoise!

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Mrs Silver lives in the downstairs flat with her tortoise who is quite small, Mr Hoppy suggests a way to make her tortoise larger and so he begins to secretly get Mrs Silver’s tortoise to grow but you’ll have to read the story to find out how he does it.

Monkey wasn’t too sure of this story, he was fascinated how Mr Hoppy made the tortoise grow but didn’t particularly like the growing relationship between the two neighbours – as like most young boys the thought of love just didn’t interest him, however he gave the story 7/10.

I on the other hand picked up on some of the subtle love interest of Mr Hoppy for Mrs Silver and enjoyed another fantastic simple idea for the story and although having only read this story as an adult I thoroughly enjoyed it, it’s quite clear that on the most part Dahl’s books are not just for children but perhaps the young at heart too. I give this story 8/10.

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