Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Matilda - read the book, seen the film, watched the musical

Last Friday I took my son to see Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre. It was brilliant, the songs were catchy, the child performers were talented and the drag act that was Miss Trunchbull was spectacular.
Best of all though Tim Minchin had captured entirely the essence of Roald Dahl and who doesn't love Roald Dahl? The man was a genius when it comes to writing for children.
When I discovered him as a child I was blown away by his imagination, The Fantastic Mr Fox was actually the first book I read entirely by myself and if I'm honest it was about then that I decided I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to create stories of my own.
I was keen to share my love of his books with my own child and sure enough as soon as he was old enough I began reading him Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Like me he was enraptured and I must admit to being annoyed when we came to the end of all his books. What were we going to read now?
My son was notoriously fussy about books, they had to be interesting, funny, fast paced with a great baddie and no boring bits. Everything in fact that was basically included in a Roald Dahl book so who was there that could compete?
No one. Believe me I looked but I have as yet to find anyone else that comes close.
And why is that? If we look  at his work there seems to be a formula to most of them
 1. A good child, usually either an orphan or with terrible parents,
2. A fabulous funny concept (chocolate factory/giant peach/special powers/big giant)
3. Lot's of horrible characters (most other children/grown up's)
4. An adventure that tests the protagonist and leads to a happy ending.

 So surely it would be easy to copy that, to become the next Roald Dahl? Well, no actually, I don't think it's easy at all. He may have made it look easy but really I think what he did was incredibly hard and incredibly perfect. His stories haven't dated, they are as much loved now as when they were first published, perhaps more so with all the new films and musicals being created from his work. He is loved all over the world, he does in fact have his very own day which is celebrated in schools and libraries.
I think he was that very rare person who really could relate to children and capture their world on paper. He wrote beautifully with humour and sadness, never shying away from difficult aspects, never patronising.
So as a writer I can't copy him, I wouldn't even try but I can continue to be inspired by him as are so many others.

Do you know anyone who can equal Roald Dahl? Leave a comment and let me know!


  1. Roald Dahl is always a winner with the children I know. My kinds loved the stories even though when you think about it some of them are quite scary. I saw The Twits in an open air theatre this summer, it was fantastic and listening to the crowd the children thought so too! I have seen some of David Walliams books and I think they have a similar style.

    1. Hi Suzanne, I don't think you can go wrong with Roald Dahl and David Walliams has a similar penchant for funny and disgusting characters so maybe one day he'll live up to the great man!