Reading with the Grandies 31: Roald Dahl, Grug and the Bus Book

In the months since I last posted about Ruby’s reading, she has discovered Roald Dahl, and her little brother has started asking to be read to from what he calls the ‘Bus Book’.

Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach (© 1961, illustrations © Quentin Blake 1995, Penguin Random House 2016)
—–, Fantastic Mr Fox (© 1970, illustrations © Quentin Blake 1996, Penguin Random House 2016)
—–. The BFG (© 1982, illustrations © Quentin Blake 1982, Puffin 1985)

Whatever else you might think about Roald Dahl (and I know there are people would keep him away from young children because of what they see as cruelty), his sentences are a joy to read aloud, and evidently a joy to hear, while his plots are full to bursting with vividly imagined incidents. We’ve read James and the Giant Peach more than once, a couple of pages at a time. We’ve reached page 54 or so of The BFG, in one sitting, but will probably take a while to return to it because something about it is too scary.

Fantastic Mr Fox has been an amazing success. Currently we see Ruby for a couple of hours in the afternoon two days a week. On half a dozen successive Nanna-and-Poppa afternoons, she has asked for Fantastic Mr Fox, and listened to the whole book in a single sitting. Once or twice she has agreed to have something else as an appetiser, but this is the book she wants, and she wants it all. At first, she would cover her ears to mute the bits she found scary, but by the most recent reading she stayed for everything. As the non-reading grandparent, it’s wonderful to watch her absorption in the story, and her intent study of Quentin Blake’s illustrations.

I hope we can keep Wes Andersen’s travesty of a film out of the picture until it’s too late for it to spoil anything. And I expect Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I loathe for its, well, cruelty as well as its racism and gooiness, can’t be too far away. But for now, we’re having a ball.

Ted Prior, Grug and the Big Red Apple (1979)
Daria Solak, Big Wide Words in the Neighbourhood (Hardie Grant 2022)
Claire Laties-Davis (text), Kazia Dudziuk (illustrations), Britannica’s First 150 Words (Britannica Books 2021)

As Charlie’s second birthday approaches, his interest in story isn’t as intense as his big sister’s. He loves spreads where we name an object and he finds it. The pages he comes back to again and again, and then is reluctant to leave, have pictures of buses, cars and especially TRUCKS. These two books, with illustrations by Daria Solak and Kazia Dudziuk respectively, stand out for their surprising choices of words, and unconventional illustrations.

Grug and the Big Red Apple, on the other hand, is a story that does the trick. The introductory bits where Grug, the mysteriously animate scrap of Australian flora, finds the apple, and the bit where Clara the carpet snake coils around the apple in order to move it – all that’s well and good, but we all love the last few spreads where the apple looms larger and larger in the foreground while Grug looks hungrier and hungrier beside it, and then, turn the page and all that’s left is a tiny core and a sated Grug. Yay for story!

6 responses to “Reading with the Grandies 31: Roald Dahl, Grug and the Bus Book

  1. Little boys love trucks!! My two young grandsons love to play with them, especially from (Grand) Marjie. When my son, now 44 was 3 he would come to the supermarket with me, he would bring a truck with him and proudly show it to the kindly old ladies that we passed. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite pronounce it correctly and it came out ‘Fuck! Fuck!’ as he presented it proudly to his disconcerted audience. As the father, I got plenty of glares!


  2. From KJ: Of course, whatever else you think of him, the man can tell an amazing story – he’s got the pacing, the characters, and the settings down pat. He is a storyteller practically beyond compare. (There are just a lot of others out there whose writing can get overlooked when Dahl fever rages.) Anyway, I love to hear how she’s inhaling Fantastic Mr Fox. I wonder if she’d like Esio Trot, perhaps not quite as much. But that’s another one accessible for younger readers.
    Do you have any Richard Scarry books for Charlie yet? Believe me, those are going to be the ones to get for him. No matter that they are American. No matter that they are decades old. They totally work for little boys who are obsessed with trucks or planes or fire engines or what have you. I have bought about 6 over the months for my 2 1/2 year old little cousin. Apparently he has been known to take them to bed with him.


    • Thanks, KJ. With your permission I have posted your comment to the blog. We’ve got Esio Trot. It’s so different from the Roald Dahls books we’re into at present that I keep looking past it. And will chase up Richard Scarry – thank you for the reminder.


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