Boy: Tales of Childhood Paperback – 11 February 2016
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|Paperback, 11 February 2016||
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About the Author
Roald Dahl was a spy, ace fighter pilot, chocolate historian and medical inventor. He was also the author of Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG and many more brilliant stories. He remains THE WORLD'S NUMBER ONE STORYTELLER.
Quentin Blake has illustrated more than three hundred books and was Roald Dahl's favourite illustrator. In 1980 he won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal. In 1999 he became the first ever Children's Laureate and in 2013 he was knighted for services to illustration.
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"Every weekday evening the whole school would sit for one hour in the Main Hall, between six and seven o'clock, to do Prep. The Master on duty for the week would be in charge of Prep, which meant that he sat high up on a dais at the top end of the hall and kept order ... The rules of Prep were simple but strict. You were forbidden to look up from your work, and you were forbidden to talk ..."
This simple descriptive passage took me immediatley back to St Joe's Seminary in Grand Rapids when I was just 13 or so, and sat at my study hall desk right next to my friend Tom Cassleman. We often skirted these strict rules by raising the tops of our desks, ostensibly to get a book or pen, so we could whisper to each other or pass notes, smirking and huffing silently to each other, immensely pleased with ourselves at fooling the priest "master" up on the dais in the center of the hall. Ah, yes, Mr Dahl got it right, even though he himself was a fearful little boy of only nine in his tale, which took place in an English school over thirty years before. I could relate, as could any St Joe's student from those years in the 1950s. As for the canings, they were gone by the 50s in American schools, but we could be sent to see the dreaded Dean of Discipline, Fr Leo, if we were caught for any infractions of the rules. And I did hear rumors of a certain perhaps predatory short Monsignor who invited the smaller boys into his rooms to "counsel" them. Thankfully, since I was already over six feet tall, I never got the call. Another passage in Dahl's story which I immediately felt a kinship with was the one where he talked of the propensity of doctors and dentists in his day who never bothered with anesthetic when operating on children.
"Pain was something we were expected to endure. Anaesthetics and pain-killing injections were not much used in those days. Dentists, in particular, never bothered with them ..."
Yup, I had an old-school dentist, even in the 50s, who didn't believe in "wasting" novocaine on kids. The prevailing theory was that kids didn't really feel pain. I remember crying every time I got a filling, and I got a lot of them back in those pre-fluoride days. Dr Brown would frown and tell me to "stop being such a baby." Bastard! Once again, Dahl understood and got it right. If it isn't obvious yet, I loved this book. On to its sequel now, GOING SOLO. Watch for my review of that soon. - Tim Bazzett, author of the Reed City Boy trilogy.
The story caused me to wonder about the headmaster though. Hmm...