Books, Celebrated Authors

Happy Birthday, Roald Dahl! {7 Lesser Known Facts About His Life}

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Roald Dahl is easily one of the greatest children’s book authors of all time. Because yesterday was his birthday, (he would have been 101!) I wanted to write up a few lesser-known facts about his life.

Many people know that Dahl was Norwegian. That he was zany and fun and a bit wild. His books are in a league all their own and I believe his unique life experiences inspired a bit of his style.

7 Lesser Known Facts About Roald Dahl

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1. His mother inspired him.

Like Theodor Geisel (or Dr. Seuss), Dahl’s inspiration began with his mother. Sofie Magdalene often told her children lively tales from Norse mythology. This, along with a 20+ year span of correspondence with his mother enabled his storytelling skills to take root.

2. He faced deep struggles in his life.

And he persevered. When he was just 4 years old, he lost his father and a sister.

In 1960, his infant son struggled to overcome severe head injuries after his stroller was hit by a taxi.

In 1962, his oldest child Olivia passed away. She had developed complications from the measles.

Then in 1964 his wife Patricia suddenly had a stroke. She was pregnant at the time and faced a long recovery. Her doctor doubted she would make it through but with her husband’s help she made a full recovery. And with that recovery came the birth of their 5th child (Lucy).

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It was during these trying times that his first children’s books were published. James and the Giant Peach was written in 1961 and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1964.

Good writers don’t let personal struggles stop their dreams from becoming a reality.

3. He found faith in God difficult.

Dahl struggled with understanding faith and religion after the death of his daughter Olivia. A deep sadness overtook him during this time and he turned away from God and religion in general.

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4. A severe head injury jumpstarted his writing career.

In 1939, when he was 23, Dahl enlisted in the RAF (Royal Air Force) at the onset of WWII. But in 1940, Dahl crash landed his plane and sustained severe head injuries. This resulted in headaches and blackouts which meant he was unfit for flying.

Though discouraged, I love Dahl’s humorous take on the situation:

“…I got a cracked skull which seemed to qualify me for being sent to Washington. There I began to write some stories in the evenings. Now I have become quite excited about it and writing stories is the only thing that I want to do.”

-from the jacket of Over to You, by Roald Dahl (1945)

5. He got to hang out with a lot of cool people.

After his life as a pilot came to an end, he went to Washington D.C to work for the British Embassy. His official title was Assistant Air Attaché. Essentially it was his job to get the American public excited and supportive of the war effort.

At any rate, he rose to popularity pretty quickly. He was charismatic and quickly made connections with Vice President Henry Wallace as well as the Roosevelts. Here is an awesome picture of Dahl with Ernest Hemingway.

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6.  He lived in the U.S. for many years.

Because Dahl was a British writer, I assumed he lived mostly in the UK. Not so. From 1942-45 and then from 1947-1962 he lived in Washington and New York.  He had a few jobs that kept him busy but he also married an American woman (Patricia Neal) in 1953 and they raised a family together before they moved to England.

7. He did more than just write kids books.

Dahl proved to be surprisingly versatile as an author. He wrote for The Saturday Evening Post, published over 60 short stories for adults, a book of poetry, two screenplays (The James Bond film You Only Live Twice and everyone’s favorite movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), and he also wrote for a few tv programs. All in addition to the 10 children’s books we know and love today.

~Rachel

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Sources:

Love From Boy: Roald Dahl’s Letters to His Mother, edited by Donald Sturrock

http://www.roalddahl.com

Books, Children's Books

Toddler Favorite Reads: Year 3

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Ah me how time flies. One minute I’m collecting board books to read to my babbling baby boy. The next he’s ready to waltz off to preschool.

I wave people off when they tell me those oft repeated words…

“They grow up so fast.”

But it’s true. So desperately true. And here I am, thinking of year 3. The last year before school. The year that ended only recently. The little yellow brick road of sunshine (ok there were tears and frustrations too) that comes to a halt oh so soon.

Preschool. Can you believe it?

I find it hard to believe still. Ooh boy. If you have any tips on the toddler to preschool transition, I’m all ears!

Moving on.

Here are my son J’s favorite books from year 3. Most he still asks for today 🙂

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1. My Peekaboo Fun: Shapes, Colors and Opposites, by YoYo Books

This one is a lot of fun. There are lots of flaps to look behind. The adult reads the question on each page and the answer is found under the flap.

-This one was given to us.

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2. Scuffy the Tugboat (Little Golden Book), by Gertrude Crampton

A true classic. This one is such a good one for little boys who love to go out adventuring. The artwork is lovely and the text not so long as to completely lose my son’s interest. Scuffy is an ambitious little tug boat who discovers where he is truly meant to be.

-One of my relatives found this book for cheap at an Antique Mall.

3. Truck Stop, by Anne Rockwell

Truck Stop is all about the comings and goings of a family owned truck stop “right beside the main highway heading north and south”. It goes through the motions of morning routine and describes the personalities and vehicles of all the regulars. And there is a mystery to be solved…where is Green Gus?

J loves this book because of the trucks (of course) but also because of the emphasis on the mom-dad-son relationship that I think makes J feel special.

-Free from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

4. Max and the Tag-Along Moon, by Floyd Cooper

Here is one of J’s favorite bedtime books. He loooovves his Grandpa and this book helps him shift his focus from missing Grandpa to seeing the moon as a symbol of Grandpa’s love and drawing comfort from its constancy.

-Also free from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

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5. Shark Attack! (DC Super Friends), by Billy Wrecks

Batman and sharks. Need I say more? We are currently in the midst of a superhero craze. And honestly who doesn’t love Batman? The storyline moves fast yet is simple enough for J to follow. Suspenseful and fun.

-A library book.

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6. The Wild West (Disney Pixar Toy Story)

This one was difficult to find a link for. I bought it at Dollar Tree. But there are a few listed on eBay currently. My kids go crazy for this book and as you can see it is well loved.

This book is based on a scene from the Toy Story movie #3 (I think). A very fast paced adventure. Can Woody and Jesse outsmart One-Eyed Bart? Who will save the orphans? And how will they escape the army of monkeys so they can defeat the Evil Dr. Porkchop??

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Thus ends my series of favorite toddler books. If you want to check out year 1 and year 2, you can read about those lists here and here.

Happy reading! And at the risk of sounding like one of those annoying older moms…hold onto those babies. They do grow up so fast 😢

~Rachel

Books, Children's Books

Toddler Favorite Reads: Year 2

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Shortly after I wrote Toddler {Summer} Favorite Books: Year 1, I learned that I was pregnant. I remember being constantly exhausted until I hit the Golden Age of pregnancy (AKA the second trimester). And then, you know, shortly after it was back to exhaustion-land which seemed to stretch for quite some time until my daughter was 4 or so months old. Long live sleep. Long live naps.

It was during this 9-month time period that I devoted as much time as I could to nurturing my son. Before our baby girl made a visible appearance. Before the dance began of dividing my attention between my children.

I knew I would do my best, but deep down I also knew that a newborn would have heavy needs (read: demands). The thought of it made my heart ache, and still does.

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This list of books are 6 that we own and love. During the age of 2, they were books that I remember reading over and over. And he would still ask for them the next day!

This is for you, J. The memories tied to these books still make me smile.

 

Favorites From Year 2

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1. Hop On Pop, by Dr. Seuss

This book is a well-known favorite. The title makes me smile. I can remember reading this one as a child and how my brothers and I laughed over it. It has simple sentences throughout that help toddlers learn language and sentence structure.

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2. Oscar’s New Neighbor, by Teddy Slater Margulie (Little Golden Book)

About this time J was still in his Sesame Street phase. One night, he asked for an Elmo book. I asked if we could read this “new” Sesame Street book. From then on he loved it! It is a story about Oscar and his new neighbor, a girl grouch named Germaine. They have some interesting conversations and Oscar learns a valuable lesson. I think J really enjoyed the emotional complexity as well as the happy ending.

 

3. Jake Baked The Cake, by B.G. Hennessy

Sometimes you find a book that is a joy for parent and child. Jake Baked The Cake is that for us. It is wonderfully romantic, yet centers on Jake, the wedding cake baker, so it isn’t overly so. It has short, rhyming text and beautifully illustrated artwork.

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4. Llama Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney

Ok so this one annoys me a little bit. But J loves it and it helps us to understand each other. The Llama Llama books are a bit silly, yet always teach a valuable truth. This one is about bedtime and the balance of mama’s tasks with a child that needs “just one more thing” before bed.

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5. I Am A Rainbow, by Dolly Parton

Oh this book! He wanted to read it over and over and over! He loved books that talked about emotions. This one combines emotions with different colors. I love how each emotion is gently explained. There is an emphasis placed on positive emotions, and yet other emotions (such as sadness) are not portrayed as wrong. I think this book helps a child to understand why they feel a certain way. It helps me too. Sometimes I would forget that the little things meant a lot to him.

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6. Pup Pack Power, published by Bendon (board book)

I actually love reading this one. J started getting into Paw Patrol at this time and this book helped us learn the names of the Paw Patrol crew. Handy little reference guide 🙂

For our kids books, we’ve found that the best way to save money on books is to shop at the smaller, more obscure used bookstores as well as sales that are organized by our local library.

Two of these books we received through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which I heartily recommend, if you live in an area that qualifies. The program ensures your child has a free new book delivered monthly until age 5.

Library sales are awesome. Children’s books are typically the cheapest, usually running as low as 10¢. And it’s always fun to scout out different used book stores. Some of them will even offer some kind of a credit system. You can donate books you no longer need for a credit of a % off your next purchase. Kinda cool! Hope you enjoyed this volume of our favorite toddler reads. More to come in the future! (Update: 8/17/17 my last toddler favorites book list…for J…is now complete. You can read it here.)

~Rachel

Books, Children's Books

Toddler {Summer} Favorite Books: Year 1

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It hit me today. Square between the eyes. Sometimes I forget just how special my son is to me and how very much I love him.

It was a bit of a rough morning. Getting ready to go out was quite interesting. My child has a new found love of the toilet. And he did not hesitate to show it as I was shampooing my hair under the bathtub faucet…you know those moments. Sometimes I just want to shout, “I am a bona fide manager of a crazy house!” And then you clean up, the moment passes and you move on with life.

When we got back home he was grouchy. Hungry and tired. And truth be known, so was I. So we ate our lunch. Or he did. Sortof. He nibbled and I stopped eating to lay him down for a much needed nap. He wanted me to sit with him while he fell asleep. From experience I know that could take ages. So I went back to eating. He cried, which is not unusual, but typically does not last long.

Then I was filled with compassion for my dear son. Who wanted only me to comfort him. Only his mother to soothe him and love him. I left the leftovers of our lunch on the table and did something I don’t often do. I crawled into his crib. I laid next to him until he fell asleep.

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And then I realized. I don’t know much about being a mother, but I have learned two things. There are definite, no-fail ways to bond with your child when they are little. One is to crawl into their crib when they are very distressed. Another is to read to them while they sit on your lap. I don’t think there is a child in this world that doesn’t like being read to.

Reading is such a powerful, beautiful thing. Now I am a book nerd, so I’m rather partial. But you can’t argue that reading is full of goodness on so many levels.

So I would like to share some of our favorite books. And I would like to thank my local library for their summer reading program. It gives me so much motivation to read new books to Baby J.

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5 of Our Most Favorite Books

 

1. My Farm Friends by Wendell Minor has been a long time favorite. This is a board book. It gives a lot of accurate details about farm animals. Also, the wording is catchy and the artwork is beautiful.

 

2. Your Kind of Mommy by Marjorie Blain Parker is one that is so dear to me. One of those books that helps you get back to how special you are as a mommy. Really nice on those hard days! Its sweet and simple and will give you the warm fuzzies.

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3.The Berenstain Bears’ Dinosaur Dig by Jan & Mike Berenstain is a fairly new one we’ve tried but Baby J wants to read it all the time! It actually has quite a bit of text, but somehow he sits still and listens very intently. He loves dinosaurs lately so I believe this is why. Plus I love the Bearenstein Bears. It brings up a lot of childhood nostalgia. Watching the cartoons at my Grandma’s..reading all the books. And they always have positive messages in the books.

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4. The Mine-O-Saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen is another dinosaur book. I’m actually not too sure why J likes this one. I think the illustrations are a bit goofy. But the text rhymes a bit and it flows well. Plus J likes the part where the Mine-o-saur spills the snacks on the floor. He will always point it out and say uh-oh. The ending is really nice too. A good book for promoting sharing 🙂

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5. Here are two books but they belong in the same entry. Wow! Ocean!  and Wow! America! by Robert Neubecker are two books that have less text and more visual info. They are responsible for teaching my son the word “wow!”. The ocean book we currently are borrowing from the library. Really good one for summer. Full of lots of details to discuss and point out.

There you have it! 6 of our favorite summertime books.