by Michael Rosen (self-proclaimed biggest fan)
Matt’s interest in Roald Dahl is what sparked my interest in Michael Rosen’s Fantastic Mr. Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake. Written by a writer about a writer this book tells us of Dahl’s life by using Boy and Flying Solo and the many letters written between home and school that Dahl’s mother had lovingly saved. The biography shares how life and writing intertwine and intersect. It’s interesting to see how even the letters written by a schoolboy at ten portend the author Dahl will become. In one Roald wrote to his sister, Alfhild, saying: “The barber is a very funny man, his name is Mr. Lundy, when I went to have my hair cut last Monday, a lot of spiders came out from under the cupboard and he stepped on them and there was a nasty squashy mess on the floor.” Can’t you hear words like those coming from The Twits or The Witches.
Rosen thinks about and describes how he can see the “writer” in Dahl well before Dahl considered becoming a writer himself. He uses the ‘Great Mouse Plot’ from Boy as an example of how life mirrors writing. Rosen explains:
…If the story about the mouse and the sweetshop lade is true (and we can never be absolutely, totally sure about that), and it really was Roald whoe came up with the ‘Great Mouse Plot’, then I think he had already begun to invent ways of writing.
Because if you plot and plan a trick, you need to think ahead and imagine ‘What would happen if…?’ If you’re some how live to imagine ‘What would happen if…?’ such as ‘What would happen if my best friend turned into a cat…?’ then you’re well on the way to being a writer.
The biography is a combination of life-story, photographs, illustrations and fun facts helping us discover how the writer and the writing came to be. Rosen says, “Time is something that every writer needs. Time to think, wonder, dream, plan and collect. And Roald Dahl had plenty of that.” We are very glad he did. His stories are favorites from James to Matilda and all the others in and around and in between.