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Dahwdling with Dahl

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The flurry of excitement over the recent remake of Roald Dahl's classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , has spurred interest in the author himself. Margaret Talbot's excellent article in the July 11/18 New Yorker, "The Candy Man: Why children love Roald Dahl's stories-and many adults don't" deals with the troublesome enduring popularity for these very prickly, very bizarre books. Talbot is a staunch Dahlian herself, and it was a relief to Laist to see Dahl's detractors rebutted with her sharp conclusion that "Dahl’s purse-lipped critics fail to recognize that his stories don’t merely indulge a child’s fantasies—they replenish them." Apparently encouraging the wildest fantasies and revenge dreams of children isn't entirely popular among moms, dads, or adults at large. According to Talbot, two of our favorite children's book writers, whose stories are not devoid of sharp edges themselves - Eleanor Cameron and Ursula K. LeGuin - both had serious problems with the nastiness and the violence of Dahl's worldview. Children, on the other hand, seem to love it. And so do we.

What is it about Dahl that makes him so difficult for some and so rewarding for others? We think it's that he pushes every possibility forward - not just what if, but what happened after that, and after that. In a world where so many great ideas and dreams are cut short, Dahl sees all of them - the good, the bad, and the squiffish - to their most extreme ends. If you're a child, a child at heart, or just an angry, bitter, dreaming adult like us here at Laist, you'll adore Dahl on a reread. We thought we'd recommend a couple of neglected Dahl classics for your summer reading. As usual, all these titles are available at Children's Book World, the best Los Angeles bookstore for young adult literature.