Another new-book gem that I recently picked up from the local public library. Although commonly categorized as a book title "for children", it has a "Web 2.0" feel and includes a lot of primary source documents. So, it would appeal to all age groups.
When I was in fifth grade, after lunch recess our teacher would provide us with a delicious twofold treat: rest and a good book. She would read to us as we unwound from running around, playing and all-things-commonplace to elementary school lunch periods. With our heads down or eyes wandering the room, we listened joyfully to our teacher reading many Roald Dahl book titles: "James and the Giant Peach" (my favorite!), Charlie's memorable adventures ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" plus "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator"), and many others. To my delight, when I visit most elementary and middle school libraries, there are usually many of Mr. Dahl's books on the library shelves.
Strangely enough, when I was an elementary and middle school student, I do not remember reading Mr. Dahl's autobiographies: "Boy: Tales from Childhood" and "Flying Solo", so as an adult and running a public middle school library, I became acutely aware of these titles in our library's biography-autobiography book shelving section.
On my recent visit to the local public library, I delightfully discovered this "updated", reformatted edition of "Boy". Printed on high quality book paper, I eagerly thumbed and skimmed through the book pages. Unexpectedly, I discovered that this edition (published in the U.K. in 2008 then 2009 in the U.S.), included many of the author's personal photos, initial and subsequent writing drafts, plus "fun facts" (such as on page 155, we learn "Roald Dahl liked to play tricks all his life. One of his favorite practical jokes was decanting cheap plonk (definition: poor quality wine) into empty wine bottles of an excellent vintage. He loved to watch his guest's reactions when they drank it.") This tidbit, of course, was eloquently woven into the chapter titled "Goat's Tobacco".
This book is an excellent read on many levels: read-aloud to children, teens and adults revisiting the joys of Mr. Dahl's many books, plus anyone who would like to delight their "inner child". Many of the author's books narrate from the child's viewpoint, commonly an "underdog". In the process of memorable storytelling, the author subtlety unfolds lessons of courage and resilience. This book is no exception.
Ever wonder how Roald Dahl became a writer? He eloquently explains it on pages 139 to 144 (in the chapter titled, of course, "How I Became a Writer"). While the headmaster and school staff were away at the pub on Saturdays, in came his inspiration: Mrs. O'Connor.
Bill Garcia Solis runs the library at Ocean View Junior High School, in Oxnard, California