When I was a kid, I loved Roald Dahl's books, particularly Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Recently, I've been wanting to read longer stories to the Bachsters (instead of just picture books) so naturally, I've looked to some of Dahl's books because I know how magical they are for kids.
The first Roald Dahl selection I read to the Bachsters was my favorite, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the story, a young boy named Charlie Bucket dreams of winning one of 5 golden tickets to gain admission into the town's mysterious chocolate factory owned by the equally mysterious Willy Wonka. Charlie's family is incredibly poor, so Charlie won't have many chances to try to win. By a wonderful coincidence, or luck or magic or maybe even fate, Charlie finds a dollar bill beneath the snow. He buys a chocolate bar at a nearby store and gobbles it down, as he is so starved. And good thing his stomach is making the decisions right then, because after he buys a second chocolate bar, on a whim, things start to look up for Charlie.
The tour of the factory with Willy Wonka has many surprises in store for Charlie and the 4 other golden ticket winners (who are all spoiled and selfish - except for Charlie, of course). One by one, the other children are kicked off the tour and then it's just Charlie (accompanied by his Grandpa) left. Even more incredible surprises are yet in store for our hero.
This book was an absolute pleasure to read to the Bachsters, and they just loved it! At one point in time, my oldest actually got up & started to dance a little jig, she was so excited by the story. Every night, they beseeched, "one more chapter, please, pleeeaaase." And the best part? As soon as we finished the book, they wanted to start reading it again!
And of course, they read it themselves between our nightly readings:
Since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was such a success, I thought we'd try another Dahl favorite, James and the Giant Peach.
In the story, James Henry Trotter loses his parents in an unfortunate accident involving a rhinoceros. He goes to live with his Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. These two women are terrible to James - "they were selfish and lazy and cruel, and right from the beginning they started beating poor James for almost no reason at all." Despite his horrible circumstances, James manages to stay upbeat and hopeful, his only desire to go to the beach and play with other children. One day, a mysterious man approaches James and gives him a bag of magical squiggly things (yeah, I had to have a conversation with the kids to never trust mysterious men, even though it works out ok in this story). Anyway, James accidentally drops the bag under the peach tree, and magical things start to happen. James finds himself on a wild adventure with a huge Ladybug, Old Green Grasshopper, Earthworm, Centipede, Spider, Glow Worm & Silk Worm, all on top of a ginormous peach.
The Bachsters loved this story as well. Every night, I was bombarded with the request for one more chapter. They were fascinated by the story of James and all his new, quirky friends and their adventures with the sharks and the Cloud Men and the new, foreign city. The pace of the story was just right and Dahl's witty writing made us all want to stay up a little late, reading more. The other day, my 5-year-old said, out of the blue, "I love James and the Giant Peach." We all agree!
If your kids are at the stage where they are ready for something lengthier than picture books, I recommend these stories by Roald Dahl. They are beloved classics.
By the way, here is the link for my post on Fantastic Mr. Fox, also by Roald Dahl.