Today is Roald Dahl’s birthday. He’s the children’s author who gave us literary classics like Matilda, James and The Giant Peach and The Witches, and he would be 101-years-old today.
I adore Roald Dahl and the many books he wrote to enthral children and adults alike. His birthday brings with it the celebration of Roald Dahl Day, and reminds us of the many lessons his brilliant work teaches us about the world and living in it with kindness and compassion.
For instance, he taught us that:
1. Diversity is to be embraced!
If there was one thing Dahl did with his books, it was to emphasize that being different was not a bad thing, but a gift to be celebrated and embraced. From Willy Wonka’s erratic but brilliant creativity, to sweet Matilda being entirely different from the rest of her ho-hum family, Dahl shows that different people make the world a magical place.
2. Doing the right thing is the right thing to do.
In Dahl’s main characters, adversity is typically a given. Yet, when faced with hard times, his protagonists make the right choices — choices that show integrity and heart, regardless of what others expect or demand. Matilda ends up with Miss Honey by toughing out her cruel family; James realizes blood doesn’t mean everything and ‘framily’ can be thicker than blood, and Charlie’s heart proves to be what Wonka loves best about him because it’s pure. Dahl shows that adversity builds character, but pays off when we stay true to what’s honest and right.
3. You can’t judge a book by its cover.
Literally. Many of the characters in Dahl’s book have very different hearts and behaviors than you’d expect by their ‘looks.’ The BFG is a terrifying giant…not. He’s actually a giant with a heart of gold. In The Witches, you’d never think that the evil, child-eating witches were underneath lovely faces and wigs, and yet…they are. James’s best friends are terrifying giant bugs, yet who he’d choose to be around over his own family.
Dahl encourages readers to look deeper than skin, and we’re better for it when we do.
4. Life’s circumstances don’t have to define us.
Most of Dahl’s main characters are poorly off. Sweet Matilda’s family abuses her, James is a malnourished, neglected child abused and starved by his aunts. Charlie’s family lives in harsh poverty. Still, their hearts remained pure and hopeful, ever optimistic and committed to making the most of what they have. Life can be hard; Dahl teaches us that we can do many things to work hard and change our fates, and this gives millions of children hope.
5. Reading makes the world a magical place.
What kind of author would he be if he didn’t encourage the practice of reading making a difference in our lives? Particularly in Matilda, Dahl allows her to escape her situation through reading. He tells how books transport us into new worlds with exciting people who live exciting lives, and encourages us to lose ourselves in books. Is there anything better?