BOY by Roald Dahl
Kirkus Star

BOY

Tales Of Childhood
Age Range: 7 - 9
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Throughout my young days at school and just afterwards a number of things happened to me that I have never forgotten. . . . Some are funny. Some are painful. Some are unpleasant. I suppose that is why I have always remembered them so vividly." Vividly indeed: with the intimate, confiding tone of a born storyteller, Dahl turns each of his family/school memories into a miniature adventure, thriller, or horror-story--with the earthy emphasis on pleasure (food, comradeship), fear, and pain. After a brief, charming slice of family-history, explaining how his Norwegian parents came to live and prosper in Wales, Dahl gets right down to business. From the years at Llandaff Cathedral School (ages 7-9, 1923-25), there's a candy-by-candy tribute to the local sweet-shop, site of "The Great Mouse Plot": Roald and friends, fed up with the meanness of filthy sweet-shop-owner Mrs. Pratchett, secretly put a dead mouse in the Gobstopper jar--but suffered mightily for their glorious prank. (Mrs. P. reported the crime to the Headmaster--unleashing the first of many school-career canings, all described in gruesome, technicolor detail.) Summer vacations in Norway are also recalled in a mixture of ecstasy--the fish, the scenery--and agony: an operation for adenoid removal without any anesthetic. And the extremes of pleasure and pain continue through Dahl's years at two English boarding schools: homesickness, sadistic Matrons and Masters, practical jokes, the indignities of "fagging" (warming up the toilet-seat for older boys), chocolates. . . and, always, the dreaded Headmaster's cane. ("By now I am sure you will be wondering why I lay so much emphasis upon school beatings in these pages. The answer is that. . . I couldn't get over it. I never have got over it.") Some readers may be put off by Dahl's style here--chatty, bedtime-story-ish, deceptively avuncular. Others might not take to the British references (no special explanations for a US audience), or the particularly British approach--full of bitter humor and odd relish--to grisly, gory matters. But those who've appreciated Dahl in various forms will find both the master of chills and the lover of chocolate here--in a fine, juicy collage of funny/awful boyhood highlights.
Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1984
ISBN: 0374373744
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1984




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