Today would have been Roald Dahl’s 96th birthday — and Penguin Young Readers is celebrating the occasion by releasing electronic versions of eight of his most beloved stories.
Kids of all ages can now stock their e-readers with James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Danny, the Champion of the World, George’s Marvelous Medicine, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Twits — an octet of yarns that represent Dahl’s uniquely wicked worldview, as well as his essential humanity. (Just try to make it all the way through Danny without shedding a single tear. Unless you’re a Twit, it’s impossible.) They all cost $6.99 — except George, which for some reason is one dollar more. Maybe the publisher wants to sell fewer copies so that fewer children will be inspired to try this at home?
For any fan of Dahl, this news is exciting. Still, I can’t help but think that this list doesn’t exactly contain the author’s eight best works — who would ever choose the wispy George’s Marvelous Medicine over a fantastically creepy story like The Witches or The BFG?
But clearly, the biggest oversight on this initial e-book list is Matilda. For shy, bookish girls everywhere, this is the Roald Dahl story — the single book that makes the rest of his oeuvre pale in comparison. It’s the first book I read that I literally couldn’t put down, as well as the first book I ever finished in a single day. When I was done, I spent hours trying to move objects with my mind. (I was… not as successful as Matilda.) Ten years later, I wrote one of my college application essays about how great Matilda is. Clearly I’m a little biased — but because it’s my favorite Dahl title, I can’t believe it didn’t make the first e-book cut. Then again, the eight novels listed were all released between 1961 and 1981; maybe that means it’s purely chronological, and another release of Dahl’s later works will correct this mistake.
But just for the sake of argument — what about you, fellow former second-grade nerds? Which missing Dahl tale do you think needs an e-book of its own? Extra points for anyone who can make an impassioned argument for The Vicar of Nibbleswicke.