Friday, 13 September 2013

Review: Roald Dahl's Heroes and Villains


Enjoy four fabulous full-colour stories featuring some of Roald Dahl's most magnificent heroes and monstrous villains: The Enormous Crocodile, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, The Twits, George's Marvellous Medicine.

In the good corner find inventive George who stands up to his grizzly, grumpy grandma by mixing a potion unlike any other. And meet Mr Muggle-Wump and his family, whose bravery and quick-thinking lead to extraordinary events.

In the bad corner Mr and Mrs Twit are the most terrible twosome you could ever have the misfortune to meet. And beware the crafty, child-guzzling crocodile...

I have celebrated Roald Dahl Day in a number of ways over the past few years, but if memory serves me correctly I don't think I have ever reviewed a Roald Dahl book on this blog (shame on me). I guess part of me feels that they are such classics that they are beyond reviewing - is there anyone reading this blog who hasn't read a handful of his books? As a child Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was definitely my favourite, but as an adult it was long ago usurped by The BFG. In the past six months my wife and I have been to see Matilda The Musical (absolutely, completely, totally amazing) and the new musical production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (not quite as good but still a very magical production, especially the Ooompa Loompas), and so Roald Dahl's stories are still playing a big part in my reading life.

With Roald Dahl Day looming I asked the lovely people at Random House if I could possibly have a review copy of a Roald Dahl book they have recently published, and when it arrived I dropped everything to read it, even though I have read the stories within on numerous occasions. I think I have a couple of other Roald Dahl anthologies in my collection, but this has to be the most beautiful of them all. It also contains four complete stories, whereas one of the ones I own is just a compilation of extracts from a huge number of his books. Much as I find most of these extracts funny and enchanting, they really do lose some of their magic when taken out of the context of their original story. Not so in Roald Dahl's Heroes and Villains.

Heroes and Villains contains two very well known stories (The Twits and George's Marvellous Medicine), both of which I have read countless times, and two slightly less well known stories (The Enormous Crocodile and The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me), the latter of which I don't think I have read since I was a child. As happens whenever I read Dahl, I was utterly entranced for the whole book, loving stories that I will never get tired of reading. Dahl does villains very well, without ever making them pantomime-esque, and I think that this is because the root of their villainy is unkindness. Not lust for power, or global domination, just simple unkindess, a trait that every child can understand and dislike, allowing them to rejoice when that villain gets their comeuppance. One of my favourite Roald Dahl quotes (not from one of his books) is: "I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being. I'll put it before any of the things like courage or bravery or generosity or anything else." For me, this sums up exactly how he created such nasty villains, and also what makes his heroes so endearing to chidlren and adults the world over.

There's no point me waxing lyrical about the stories themselves, as if you aren't a fan already nothing I can say is likely to change your mind (and anyway, Laura Dockrill did that so much better in her guest post for me this morning), but I really should say a little more about this volume. As ever, the words are accompanied by Quentin Blake's wonderful illustrations, but the large format of this book and the high quality paper that has been used for the pages really do the images and their vivid colours justice. This volume would make a perfect present for a child who has yet to discover the magic of Dahl, or who has only had his stories read to them and is now ready to read them independently. Equally, it would make just as good a gift for an adult, especially one who takes life too seriously and needs a little Dahl magic back in their life.

This beautiful hardcover edition of Roald Dahl's Heroes and Villains was published on 5th September and my thanks go to the lovely people at Random House for sending me a copy to read. I'm now off to read The BFG. Again.





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