The other day someone posed a question on Facebook: “What author (or book) made you fall in love with reading?” (Note to self: add this to discussion questions for our next road trip.) Please, please, tell me your answer in the comments because I love this question! I tie books to memories like some people remember their childhood head colds when they smell mentholatum. I remember the first book I claimed to read: Three Billy Goats Gruff (my mom politely informed me I had only memorized it), the first book I actually read (Hop on Pop), the first book that made me cry (Bridge to Terabithia), what I was in the middle of on the day I got married (Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix), the first book I read as a new mom (Harry Potter: Deathly Hollows), and the first chapter book I read to Molly, then Adrienne, then Charlotte (The Twits by Roald Dahl). Which brings me to my point: Roald Dahl made me fall in love with reading.
Sure, I liked the Babysitters’ Club and the Sweet Valley Twins, but getting my hands on a Roald Dahl book was even better than a new Hypercolor shirt. Better, even, than a trip to ShowBiz or an afternoon of duck hunting on our snazzy new Nintendo.
I had a friend, that had cooler things than me because, my mom explained, “her dad’s a doctor. They have more money.” I distinctly remember coveting an amazing baby blue lockbox, and books. They had more books than I could shake a bookmark at. And in addition to hand-me-down hockey gear for my brother, they passed on their books, including the complete collection of Roald Dahl. The Twits, Boy, Matilda, The Witches, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The BFG, James and the Giant Peach, Danny: Champion of the World, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… all of it, all of it, all of it.
And if you’re a Roald Dahl fan, then you for sure know his cartoonist of choice: Sir Quentin Blake. Literally, he’s been knighted with the likes of Elton John and Bono. So he’s a big deal.
Here are a few Dahl books we currently have on hand at our house:
The Witches is the last surviving Dahl book we own from my childhood, as you can probably tell from the pages that fell out and are stuffed back in.
Something about Blake’s penchant for scrawny, big-nosed kids with an air of mischief about them resonates with readers, and totally jives with Dahl’s characters. When I visited Blake’s website, I found that at eighty-eight years old, Quentin Blake a) is still alive and drawing up a storm b) has an impressive social media following, and c) has an air of mischief about him, I think. I took one look at him knew he is a guy who can stir up some trouble. Not to mention, he resembles a well-fed Charlie Bucket at age 88. Something tells me he has spent some time in the mirror drawing his characters.
There are other children’s illustrators I have grown to love, of course: Jan Brett, Tomie DePaola, and Kevin Henkes to name a few. But none are so connected to my childhood memories of reading as Sir Quentin Blake.