Growing Reader


A Roald Dahl Book for
Every Kind of Kid

by Tom Burns

There are certain iconic children’s writers whose works truly speak to young children, no matter where they’re from or where their interests lie. Roald Dahl is one of those writers. Perhaps best known as the author of classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox, Dahl, a former British fighter pilot, created a remarkable collection of books over his long career that kids have embraced for more than 70 years.

So which Roald Dahl book is perfect for your kid? From the budding poet to the reluctant reader, here are some favorite Dahl titles suited to all kinds of little personalities.

  • For the Ultimate Book Lover …

  • Matilda

    by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

    Matilda is one of the best books about school ever written, largely because it presents children with both the good and the bad behind modern education in a surprisingly even-handed way. While Miss Trunchbull and her horrid school are definitely the bad guys, Matilda is practically a poster child for the benefits of intellectual curiosity and self-guided reading (and Miss Honey shows kids that not all teachers are bad).

  • For the Budding Poet …

  • Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes

    by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

    Revolting Rhymes is a fantastically funny poetry collection that shows aspiring young poets how to look at familiar things from a fresh and unique perspective. Dahl’s verses skewer classic fairy tales and ask readers to ruminate on unfamiliar questions like, “What if Cinderella didn’t like her prince?” or “Can you believe what a rotten little kid Goldilocks was?” If your young poet wants to learn how to question authority in the most lyrical way possible, this is the book for them.

  • For the Kid Who Adores Animals ...

  • The Enormous Crocodile

    by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

    In this short but no less wonderful Dahl tale, the Enormous Crocodile schemes to catch some delicious children to fill his belly. Thinking himself very clever, he brags about his plans to the other animals of the jungle, who then make it their mission to stop him. Featuring a menagerie of animals like Humpy-Rumpy the Hippo, Trunky the Elephant, and Muggle-Wump the Monkey, this story will delight little animal lovers as they observe the heroic creatures put a stop to the Crocodile’s hilarious tricks.

  • For the Aspiring MasterChef Junior …

  • Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes

    by Roald Dahl, Felicity Dahl, and Josie Fison, illustrated by Quentin Blake, photographed by Jan Baldwin

    Technically, Revolting Recipes was compiled by Dahl’s daughter, Felicity, after Dahl’s death, but the author did help create most of the recipes and always wanted to publish a cookbook based on the wild concepts from his many food-related tales. (It also features art by longtime Dahl illustrator Quentin Blake.) If your kid loves to cook, how can they pass up trying to make The Twits’ Bird Pie or Willy Wonka’s Lickable Wallpaper?

  • For the Kid Who Prefers Reality Over Fantasy …

  • Boy

    by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

    If your child has no patience for magical chocolate factories or flying glass elevators, they might enjoy some of Dahl’s nonfiction works, especially his memoir Boy: Tales of Childhood, a collection of truly fascinating, well-told anecdotes that follow Dahl from his youth to age 20. Or perhaps even the more obscure The Mildenhall Treasure, in which Dahl reports on the true story of a British farmer who uncovered a million dollar cache of ancient Roman silver in his field one day.

  • For the Reluctant Reader …

  • The Vicar of Nibbleswicke

    by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

    The Vicar of Nibbleswicke was published after Dahl’s death, but it truly speaks to Dahl’s love for children, language, and reading. The title character is a clergyman suffering from Back-to-Front Dyslexia, a condition that makes him say certain words backwards (to hilarious effect). Dahl and his collaborator Quentin Blake both donated their profits from the book to the Dyslexia Institute in London.

Which Roald Dahl book is your all-time favorite? Let us know in the comments below.