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What is it
This 4-CD collection includes Roald Dahl himself reading some of his most-famous stories: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James & the Giant Peach, and Fantastic and Mr. Fox – as well as a couple of his less well-known: The Enormous Crocodile and The Magic Finger
Who is it for
Kids of most ages and adults all seem to like Roald Dahl stories.
What Kids Like
One aspect of Dahl stories that seem to appeal to my kids is the perpetual threat of violence that is largely absent from modern children’s stories. The threat is rarely realized, and when it is, it’s done so in a comical manner, so never crosses the line into gore.
The other appealing aspect for kids is the revenge fantasy element. Almost every Dahl story has a mistreated child who is finally able to strike back at the grown-ups who torment them. Mr. Fox is an exception to that, in that he is a fox, but that is also a tale of revenge, actuated by outwitting the cruel adults.
There is a kind of thruthfulness to Dahl’s language, describing characters and actions in a way that could be described as politically incorrect, but in a refreshingly honest way. Here is the opening of Fantastic Mr. Fox:
Down in the valley there were three farms. The owners of these farms had done well. They were rich men. They were also nasty men. All three of them were about as nasty and mean as any men you could meet. Their names were Farmer Boggis, Farmer Bunce and Farmer Bean.
Boggis was a chicken farmer. He kept thousands of chickens. He was enormously fat. This was because he ate three boiled chickens smothered with dumplings every day for breakfast, lunch and supper.
Bunce was a duck-and-goose farmer. He kept thousands of ducks and geese. He was a kind of pot-bellied dwarf. He was so short his chin would have been underwater in the shallow end of any swimming-pool in the world. His food was doughnuts and goose-livers. He mashed the livers into a disgusting paste and then stuffed the paste into the doughnuts. This diet gave him a tummy-ache and a beastly temper.
Bean was a turkey-and-apple farmer. He kept thousands of turkeys in an orchard full of apple trees. He never ate any food at all. Instead, he drank gallons of strong cider which he made from the apples in his orchard. He was as thin as a pencil and the cleverest of them all.
What Parents Like
Part of what we like is the nostalgia from hearing stories we remember hearing as children, and we like exposing our kids to stories that we consider ‘classics’.
Also, the language Dahl uses is more sophisticated and creative than most other children’s media our kids enjoy, so we like exposing them to that.
This set is perfect for road trips. The stories themselves are about 45 minutes, and each fits on a single CD.
These are also very convenient for bedtime. MP3 players or streaming via the phone is convenient, but with those devices there is always the temptation to see what else is on the device. With CDs, there isn’t a choice.
What the Critics Think
I don’t think this particular anthology has won any awards, but Dahl and his books have won plenty (Here’s a list)
There is some harsh language, when adult characters belittle the children in the stories, calling them “stupid” and “worthless”. The language itself is not graphic, but it can be shocking for kids who are only used to the gentle language of Sesame Street, for example.
Who Made it
Roald Dahl is most famous for writing the story, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” that has since been made into multiple movies. He also wrote Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Danny the Champion of the World, Matilda, The BFG, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, The Twits, The Witches, and several others. Many of his stories have been made into movies.
There’s a lot more about the author at this fan site.
Dahl did most of his writing in the 1960s and 1970s
James & the Giant Peach 1961
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 1964
The Magic Finger 1966
Fantastic and Mr. Fox 1970
The Enormous Crocodile 1978
Where Can I Get it
The CDs are available at libraries or to buy online. You can get them streaming for free with an Amazon Audible subscription, and some libraries offer them as downloads through the Libby app.