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Roald Dahl Month gives readers the chance to get to know the author of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 21 2010 10:07 a.m. MDT

Who is your favorite author?

If you said Roald Dahl, you're not alone.

From "Matilda" and "The BFG" to "The Witches" and "James and the Giant Peach," millions of kids around the world are gobbling up Dahl's books.

This September, readers have even more to celebrate with Roald Dahl Month.

Dahl was born in Wales on Sept. 16, 1916. He grew up the only boy in a household of sisters, living in England until the age of 18.

As a child, Dahl loved stories and books, but he wasn't a good student, earning poor school reports calling him a poor reader with limited ideas. Writing books for children was not even an interest.

At 18, Dahl went to work for the Shell Oil Company in Africa, and when World War II broke out, he became a fighter pilot in Britain's Royal Air Force.

In 1942, Dahl was injured and transferred to Washington, D.C. It was there that Dahl began to write. It wasn't long until his first short story — an account of his adventures during the war — was published by the Saturday Evening Post, an American magazine.

It took Dahl 15 years of writing for adults before he turned to children's literature. By then, he had children of his own and was busy making up bedtime stories for them. That's where "James and the Giant Peach," published in 1961, came from. His second book, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (1964), followed with great success.

Kids today might be surprised to learn that Dahl never learned to use on a typewriter or a computer. He wrote all his books by hand, with a pencil.

And if you think all the illustrations in Dahl's books look familiar, that's because they are. With the exception of one book, Quentin Blake illustrated all of Dahl's children's books. It was a partnership that lasted until Dahl's death, and it was one of respect and admiration.

"It is Quent's pictures rather than my own written descriptions that have brought to life such characters as the BFG, Miss Trunchbull, Mr. twit and The Grand High Witch," Dahl once said. "Most of (the illustrations) he does entirely on his own, and they are far better and funnier than anything I could think of."

Dahl passed away on Nov. 13, 1990, at the age of 74 from a rare blood disorder. He wrote more than 60 works for adults and children. In addition to American and United Kingdom versions of his children's books, Dahl's writing has been translated into 34 languages.

In conjunction with Roald Dahl Month, a new Dahl book, "The Missing Golden Ticket and Other Splendiferous Secrets," is now available. Inside, readers will find a never-before published missing chapter from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" along with other secrets about Dahl's characters and the author himself.

Readers can visit www.roalddahl.com for a number of activity sheets, games and trivia questions along with information on the four-month-long "Roald Dahl Reading Dahlathon," which runs through December and gives kids the chance to win medals, books and other prizes.

e-mail: jharrison@desnews.com

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