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MT 18 September 2016

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2016 16 I t might seem like a wholly eclectic world for adults, but for children, words like delumptious and scrumdiddlyumptious, made perfect sense. And even today, for anyone who read widely when they were young, these words are likely to bring back fond memories of chocolate factories, telekinetic powers and f lying giant peaches… Although the variety of children's books has risen immensely since his first chil- dren's book publication in 1945, few have arguably been as notable and influential as Dahl's works. "Once the books are presented to chil- dren, they instantly fall in love with his peculiar yet relatable characters," says Lit- eracy class teacher, Rachel Lombardo. "Roald Dahl's stories are funny, creative and descriptive and his characters come alive on each and every page." Perhaps one of the strongest testaments to the evergreen nature of his legacy is the relentless flow of adaptations of his works. Including the recent Spielberg movie ad- aptation of Dahl's The Big Friendly Gi- ant (BFG) and the musical adaptation of Matilda. Not to mention Charlie and the Chocolate factory – which has been filmed twice, once with Johhny Depp, the other with the late Gene Wilder in the classic 1971 version. Lombardo – who often shows these films to her classes - says having such adapta- tions could in fact be the key to keeping Dahl's popularity alive. "However, it is of utmost importance that the written work is not abandoned for the sake of the movie adaptations," she says. "Nothing can ever replace the beauty of the written word as Dahl himself reminds us in one of the Oompa Loompa songs in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install A lovely bookshelf on the wall. Then fill the shelves with lots of books." One would venture to suggest then that Roald Dahl's works were never meant to be read in a vacuum and that they always relied heavily on the visual experience – originally provided by the illustrations of Quentin Blake. Blake's sketch-like illustrations have in fact become synonymous with the writ- er's work, and they continue to enhance many of the themes and eccentricities of the worlds depicted within the novels. Ac- cording to University of Malta children's literature lecturer, Dr. Giuliana Fenech, these eccentricities are in fact one the writer's most significant legacies. Celebrating the weird and wonderful " P ossibly, his greatest gift to us was an eloquent celebration of the weird and the wonderful," Fenech says. "Like Lewis Carroll, Richmal Crompton, Arthur Ransome, P.L Travers, and Ed- ward Ardizzone before him, Dahl was not afraid of pushing social and liter- ary boundaries," she argues - such as the language games he used, his unusual characters, plot twists and keenness to have his work illus- trated. Fenech goes on to point out how Dahl's unusual stories also pre- sented readers with different ways of viewing the world and their own potential, while rejecting rules that constrained their creativity. "They are filled with strong human values championing plenty of unlikely victors: small children tri- umphing over crafty adults, poor families winning over wealthy moguls, and so on; and they also feature a disregard for social expecta- tion and rules that keep us penned in, un- able to express our full poten- tial," she says. Perhaps one of the most effective ways to gauge whether a writer is still influential in the present day is to take a look at his im- pact on contemporary writers, says Fene- ch. Because many of the most successful ones it seems show a great indebtedness to the unique worlds he created. "Dahl's influence is definitely felt in the work of contemporary writers includ- ing Philip Pullman, J.K. Rowling, Michael Rosen and Lemony Snicket among others. Like Dahl, these writers are unapologetic about their themes, beginnings and end- ings. They are not after adult approval, but rather the pure delight that their work inspires in those who read his books." SUNDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2016 Dahl • 100 years The gloriumptius world of Roald Dahl – 100 years on On the centenary of writer Roald Dahl's birth, MARTINA BORG talks to Maltese writers and teachers about what made his writing so memorable and timeless, and whether his works still hold the same appeal as they once did...

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