Inspiring Older Readers

posted on 16 Oct 2016

Celebrating Roald Dahl's 100th birthday

I was invited to contribute to the Roald Dahl Centenary celebrations at St Richards Hospice in Worcester and took along a variety of books and artefacts to talk about with a group of Day patients. We spent a very pleasant hour looking a various books from my collection and talking about the author's extraordinary life story

I passed around three different editions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, pointing out the different interpretations of Augustus Gloop in particular. I really like the original version illustrated by Faith Jaques and the more dreamy version by Michael Foreman although of course Quentin Blake' s illustrations are extraordinary and most of the group preferred them. The impressive pop up version was a big success.

One of the volunteers had been reading ' Tales of the Unxpected' with this group of day patients for several weeks before so they were all well tuned into Dahl's particular brand of dark humour. We agreed that his early life as described in the autobiographical 'Boy' must have contributed to his penchant for describing quite uncomfortable and unpleasant experiences. We all squirmed as I read the ghastly passage about his tonsillectomy without anaesthetic in his kitchen and agreed that times had considerably improved!

No one apart from me had been to see the new film version of The BFG so I provided a brief synopsis of the story and told them about the magical scene where Sophie and the giant go to catch the dreams, reading the appropriate extract from the book helped. The film has prompted some interesting toy tie ins which I passed around, the favourite being a little night light that lights up when pressed. Since several patients declared that they wanted to buy this for grand children,I feel I should get some kind of commission! After passing round several books and other items I concluded by reading a short extract from 'MyYear ' in which Dahl shows that he can write wonderfully about the natural world.


In preparation for the event, the patients had been asked to bring along any Dahl books from home and I was thrilled to see what looked like a first edition copy of Gremlins, a children's book published by Walt Disney in 1943. Apparently, it's owner Gus had kept it since childhood and always loved it. Sadly, he was much too unwell to come along to the event so I went down to meet him in his room, taking a few books and other things to show him. We had a good chat and he particularly liked the special edition of Roald Dahl stamps.


I really enjoyed myself and am going back soon to a similar event with a different group of patients. The day was rounded off with a Roald Dahl birthday feast prepared by the very talented kitchen staff - just look at the splendiforous sweet trolley.

Karen Argent

October 2016