Top 10: Roald Dahl Books for Roald Dahl Day!

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Best Roald Dahl Books for 3rd Grade!

My eight-year-old middle daughter has become Roald Dahl’s biggest fan and she’s very upset that I failed to tell her about Roald Dahl Day!  But honestly, who knew that  September 13 is Roald Dahl Day?!  It was a happy accident that I stumbled upon Philip Ardaugh’s post online. (Click here for a link to his blog.)  Next year we will do a proper celebration, my daughter and I.

It is a testament to Roald Dahl’s extraordinary talent that his books translate to today’s young audience used to action-packed books that grab their attention on page one.  I have heard for years how much my kids and their friends LOVE, LOVE, LOVE The B.F.G.  Even my six-year-old knows that B.F.G. stands for Big Friendly Giant though he hasn’t a clue about Roald Dahl yet.  Matilda was another book that 3rd and 4th grade girls I knew were passionate about and we used it for a very successful 4th grade girls’ book club meeting.

Danny, the Champion of the World did not make Philip Ardagh’s list but I found it tucked away on a high bookshelf having brought it at a discount years ago and handed it to my middle daughter when she asked for more Roald Dahl but not James and the Giant Peach which we did have.  She wanted me to produce The Twits, The Witches or George’s Marvelous Medicine.  Unfortunately, none of these books reside in our house.  But she needed a book to read NOW– her reading log assignment was calling her name — so I handed her Danny, the Champion of the World with a take it or leave it ultimatum.  Reluctantly, she agreed to give the book a try.

It turns out that from her parent-teacher conference that we need to spend more time reading out loud together because she tends to skip over little words or substitute big words if she doesn’t recognize them which makes it tough to comprehend what she’s reading.  I started reading Danny, the Champion of the World to her but she quickly seized the book and began reading it out loud.  As she read (and I corrected and knit simultaneously), I started to get that vague, fuzzy, deja vu feeling that I knew this book … raisins soaked in water until plump and then inserted with 1-inch pieces of horsetail … poaching pheasants in the dead of the night … sleeping pills utilized in a wildly creative way.  Pleasant memories started to come back.  Isn’t that funny how you can remember a book from 25 years ago if it’s a really good book?

Now, we both are impatient to finish the book.  I don’t think Roald Dahl was capable of writing a bad or even mediocre book but here is a list from author Philip Ardagh of his favorite Roald Dahl books in honor of Roald Dahl Day! Enjoy the celebration all year as you work through this fine list!


Children’s author Philip Ardagh won the upper age category in last year’s Roald Dahl Funny Prize for the first of his Grubtown Tales, and his Eddie Dickens adventures have been translated into 34 languages. He’s also written funny stuff for radio (including BBC radio’s first-ever truly interactive drama) and is an “irregular regular reviewer” of children’s books for the Guardian.

And these are his Top 10 Picks:

1. The Twits

Beard-hating Dahl at his best in this tale of an ever-warring couple: repulsive Mr. Twit and his equally repulsive glass-eyed wife. Not forgetting the monkeys. You mustn’t forget the monkeys. If I tell you any more I might spoil the story. Read it. It’s bonkers.

2. Matilda

Matilda is a lovely girl. Her parents aren’t. Matilda loves books and reading. Her parents love conning people and watching telly. School, ruled by the evil Miss Trunchbull, whose specialty is swinging children by their hair and throwing them out of the window, isn’t much better. Then Matilda discovers that she has supernatural powers …

3. The Witches

The Grand High Witch has a simple but fiendishly clever plan to rid England of its children: her hags will take over all the sweet shops, and sell doctored sweets to the children, turning them into mice. (Did I say simple?) Fortunately, a boy overhears their villainous scheming. Unfortunately, he’s turned into a mouse before you can say Jack Robi—

4. James and the Giant Peach

An everyday story of evil aunts (Sponge and Spiker), a giant, flying fruit (the peach of the title) inhabited by characterful, giant insects (including the Old-Green-Grasshopper) and, of course, James himself. Lots of funny policemen, too.

5. George’s Marvelous Medicine

George’s grandma is such a groucher, a grumbler, and a griper that he decides to mix up some medicine to try to cure her of her nastiness. As with 94.8% of plans in Roald Dahl books, this one doesn’t turn out quite the way George intended. The results are explosive!

6. Fantastic Mr Fox

Mr. Fox is the good guy, looking out for his foxy family (at least that’s how he sees it). Farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean are certainly the baddies. In this battle of wits between farmer and “vermin”, Mr. Fox is tunneling for food whilst the farmers are trying to dig him out. A simple tale told as only Dahl can.

7. The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me

A giraffe with an extending neck, a pelican with a bucket-sized beak, a dancing monkey, and a boy with big ideas join forces to create the Ladderless Window-Cleaning Company. Their biggest job? To clean all 677 – yes, six hundred and seventy-seven – of the Duke of Hampshire’s windows. Expect chaos in this lavishly illustrated silliness.

8. Esio Trot

Spell “Esio Trot” backward and you get the word “tortoise”, which should give you a clue as to how crazy this (very short) novel is. It’s about Mr. Hoppy’s unrequited love for Mrs. Silver downstairs who, in turn, only has eyes for her pet tortoise, Alfie.

9. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Dahl’s best-known book has everything: grotesque characters, ludicrous situations, and, of course, chocolate! Who could ask for more? When Charlie Bucket wins the last “Golden Ticket” to get a free tour of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, he soon discovers that his fellow winners have bitten off far more than they can chew.

10. The BFG

If flatulence, royalty and a giant with disproportionately large ears are what you’re after in a story, this is the book for you. Throw in kidnapped orphan Sophie (snatched and taken to Giant Land) and a trumpet that blows dreams into sleeping children’s rooms, and the result is an extraordinary Dahl-esque/Dali-esque vision.

NOTE: All of the above are illustrated by Quentin Blake. What a marriage made in heaven that was!

Honorable Mention: Danny the Champion of the World

This is one of our favorite Roald Dahl book’s: the art of poaching peasants from your arch enemy fat cat next door. And it’s all about father/son bonding. A perfect book for a dad to read to his kids!


p.s. More Roald Dahl:

Happy Roald Dahl Day: Our Favorites!

Roald Dahl Day September 13

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on the image of the book. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

My books:

BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.

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