Roald Dahl didn't enjoy his schooldays and his unhappy memories greatly influenced his writing. He did, however, enjoy trips to the sweetshops as a young boy. And when he was older, his boarding school was close to Cadbury's factory...sound familiar? At boarding school, he got in the habit of writing to his mother once every week (a habit that continued for over thirty years, until her death).
Dahl was 23 years old when WWII broke out and he joined the Royal Air Force. He was sent home as an invalid, after "surviving a direct hit at the Battle of Athens". Eventually he was sent to Washington, where he was enlisted to help publicize the British war effort by writing a piece for THE SATURDAY EVENING POST. His writing career was underway. This account is from the Roald Dahl Official WEBSITE:
Dahl first became interested in writing children's books by inventing bedtime stories for his own two daughters. His stories are especially good for reading aloud. Here are some of our favorites (many with illustrations by Quentin Blake)...
THE BFG - "Big Friendly Giant" - Sophie, an eight-year-old orphan, is kidnapped by the BFG and taken to Giantland, where her friendly alliance with the BFG and the queen of England results in the capture of the nine evil giants.
FANTASTIC MR. FOX - Mr. Fox has to continually keep one step ahead of the three farmers whose cruel obsession is the extermination of the Fox family. I also highly recommend the recent stop-motion animated feature of Fantastic Mr. Fox!
MATILDA - From Publisher's Weekly: "Adults may cringe at Dahl's excesses in describing the cruel Miss Trunchbull, as well as his reliance on overextended characterization at the expense of plot development. Children, however, with their keenly developed sense of justice, will relish the absolutes of stupidity, greed, evil and might versus intelligence, courage and goodness." (Sadly, Miss Trunchbull is based on one of Dahl's own teachers at a boarding school he attended from ages 9-13).
Roald Dahl had many passions and interests outside of his writing. He also suffered many family tragedies in his lifetime, but they did not make him bitter. He continually tried to overcome them with positive action. One example of this is when his four-month-old son Theo became brain damaged after a car accident. Dahl, along with two friends - one a neurosurgeon, the other an engineer - spent months developing a valve that would drain fluid from the brain to allow his son to live free of machines. (It was used for years, until being finally surpassed by new developments in technology; and Theo made a spectacular recovery!)
Roald Dahl died November 23, 1990, at the age of 74 from a rare blood disorder. For more books, information, and fun facts about Roald Dahl, don't miss his website, http://www.roalddahl.com/.