When I saw the prompt for Food for Thought, I nearly panicked. One book? How was I ever going to choose one book? I’ve read so many books in my life, from an early age. I don’t have many books that I reread. I have some that I was very impressed with at the time of reading, but if I could say that one of those was really my favourite? And I’m not like my father who used to reread Lord of the Rings in its entirety annually.
So I was gracious to see the mention of Enid Blyton in the prompt description. I know her. I’ve read her books numerous times. As a child, I loved the books about the twins. I read the Dutch translation from the library, or I would buy them at second-hand bookstores. This meant that I would read their second year, then their fifth year, then their first year, just in whatever order I could get my hands on. As long as I could join their world and go with them on their nightly escapes.
Fantasy for Children
When you look at the other books that I read when I was a kid, you can see a particular genre. The stories I read were by two authors: Roald Dahl and Annie M.G. Schmidt. In essence, these two were quite similar. The books I read were children’s literature. The topics were almost always about kids doing stuff that they weren’t allowed to do, and things in this fictional world were always larger than life.
In a poem by Annie M.G. Schmidt, a woman literally melts because she was standing in the rain, so all that is left is a puddle of clothes. Or in another poem, birds come up with a great idea: they make a bird’s nest of chewing gum. Unfortunately, this soon turns into a sticky mess, so they’ve learned their lesson.
Roald Dahl’s books are roughly in the same way. When you read ‘Charlie’s Chocolate Factory’, bad things happen to the glutinous, misbehaved children. Their punishments are related to their sins and are, in a way, good-natured.
I loved the elements of fantasy in the worlds these authors created. Things that seem plausible, but aren’t in the real world. I recognise that style in my own work too. I hate writing super-realistic stories, so they’re often set in a slightly larger than life world.
Matilda – Like Me
Right, the choice of the One Book. Without further ado: Matilda by Roald Dahl.
I remember receiving a copy of this book from my aunt. She said something along the lines that she hoped I could relate to the story. And I did.
Seeing this book came out in 1988, I must have received it shortly after that. I loved it, because I felt just like Matilda. I, too, was always the smart one, and often misunderstood because of it. I could relate to Matilda’s hardships at home. My situation was not as bad as the main character’s, but I understood her need to escape, her wanting to move in with Miss Honey. Being an intelligent girl, I hoped I could transfer my intelligence to telekinesis like Matilda, but unfortunately, that didn’t work.
And there was one other reason what I liked about this book. The Chokey. Mind you, I had no idea what BDSM was, I was under the age of ten and blissfully unaware regarding everything sexual. But the Chokey turned me on. Maybe I shouldn’t sexualise it that much, but at the very least I was intrigued by it. The idea of being locked up inside such a contraption was incredibly appealing to me.
I never really liked the movie of Matilda much, since it came much later in 1996 and it was so different from what I had formed in my head, but the thing I hated the most was the Chokey. I was so disappointed when I saw that. The nails you see sticking out in the movie are easy to avoid. That was nothing at all like the torture device I had concocted from the text I had read.
Reading to Escape
I can talk about books for hours. There are many books and series that I love, but the ones mentioned here have made a great impression on me, on my life, on my writing style and yes, on my sexual development. I think the books you read in your childhood make the strongest impression on you, even for the simple reason that growing up in the eighties, we didn’t have many sources of entertainment. I didn’t have a GameBoy, and I was only allowed to watch TV on set times, and only the non-violent cartoons. So basically, all I could do was take a book from the shelf and read. And I loved it. I loved escaping into a different world, and especially that of the smart girl from a lousy family, like Matilda. Her story had a happy end, and mine, well, I guess mine too.
Link to an English translation of a poem by Annie M.G. Schmidt: https://irenelatham.blogspot.com/2014/04/a-pond-full-of-ink-by-annie-mg-schmidt.html
Great choice of books – Love all his books though. And they really inspired my kids to keep reading. The Twits will have anyone in stitches ;-)I have also read an adult book of his
Yeah, these two books I mentioned were the ones that stuck most with me, but I have read others too. Not the adult ones though, only a couple of short stories. I can imagine his books inspire kids to keep reading ?
I love Roald Dahl- and mention this book in my post too, only briefly though. I loved the books so much more than any movie because like you said the movie version of The Chokey just doesn’t do it justice. My other favorite from Dahl was The B.F.G. Thank you for sharing this Liz! I kept nodding my head yes throughout your post.
I agree. The only movie that sort of came close was the first Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. Not the second one with Johnny Depp though *shudders in disgust*
Thanks for reading ?
Oh a fabulous choice, I definitely read a fair amount of Roald Dahl as a kid. I actually really loved The Witches, then I watched the movie and it absolutely terrfied me! Even now as a grown up, having watched much scary movies, that one still gives me the creeps, lol. I should have just stuck with the book! My little boy is getting to an age where we can discover Roald Dahl all over again and I am genuinely quite excited for that 🙂 x
You could try reading Tow-Truck Pluck by Annie M.G. Schmidt, if you can get your hands on it. My brother loved that book and (was) read it many times. It’s a fun story:
I loved reading Roald Dahl books to my son (I am too old to have read them as a child). Great choice in Matilda.
Thank you ☺️
I have mentioned Roald Dahl’s short stories for adults in my post, which are wonderful. I loved Enid Blyton and in particular the St Clare’s and Mallory Towers books. I got rid of all mine, which I now, of course, regret. I am going to scour local charity shops to see if I ca find any with the same covers from the seventies!
I’m doing the exact same thing, to my husband’s horror ?
My favourite Dahl book is Fantastic Mr Fox but also love The Witches. It is a very dark story. Like you
I don’t think I’ve read that one, I’ll check it out ?
You picked a good one.
Thank you ☺️
No Gameboy for me either. Such things didn’t exist back in the late 50s. It was wonderful to read of your great love of reading. We only had three books at my home, two volumes of an encyopedia and a cookery book. My mother, sister and I got all our books from the library. I enjoyed reading Matilda to my son and daughter and James and the Giant Peach. I’ve heard of Chokey but never read it..It’s not often films live up to the books they’re made from. Especially if they are books that have made a big impression on us.
Thank you ☺️
We often went to the library too, until I had finished all of the children’s books ?
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