Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Going Solo by Roald Dahl (Booktalk)

[This booktalk is for designated for a high school audience.]

Did you read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or James and the Giant Peach when you were younger? Those were written by Roald Dahl, a brilliant writer and a fascinating man. He was also a British fighter pilot in World War II, and he had many near-death experiences in the war, including a very serious plane crash very close to enemy territory, one so bad that doctors thought he'd never see again. Luckily, they were wrong. He recovered, but while he was blind he had a huge crush on the nurse who helped him. You have to read it just for that part. It's both sweet and hilarious.

No one can write about scary, surreal, or bizarre experiences with the same dry humor as Roald Dahl. Before the war started, Dahl was employed by an oil company and he was sent to work in East Africa, part of the British empire at the time. He met so many eccentric characters there: people who exercised naked on a ship; a man who thrived on catching deadly snakes while calling them sweet names (he loved the snakes and wasn't cruel to them); a lady who wouldn't touch food with her hands at all, ever. He knew he'd ever encounter such types ever again, and he never did. There's something very strange and wonderful about being in a far away country, one very different from your home country.

I loved the postcards, telegrams, and photographs included which document his time in Africa and his time spent in the war. "One gasps at the waste of life"(83), he tells us. Yet Dahl survived, and he left this wonderful biography for us.

Going Solo by Roald Dahl. 210 pages. 1986. Booktalk to high school, adult. Great read-aloud.

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