Spinning one of my old Boyzone albums (the soundtrack to my early teen existence) never fails to make me feel safe and sound, despite, or even because I can now see the quality of the music for what it is.
Similarly, delving into a favourite old children’s book is like bathing in a psychological warm bath.
I’m not condoning trying to crawl right back into the womb, but a couple of hours escape into childhood can do wonders for the soul.
I have recently indulged in a bit of a reading spree of Roald Dahl books, and it just so happens that today is Roald Dahl day (who knew?).
In the week that Dahl was declared kids’ most popular author, what better time for a survey of his canon.
I think what makes his books so special is that they tap into universal childhood hopes and fears in a remarkably nuanced and sophisticated way.
Matilda for example, is a story about a child with unrecognised talents who can see the adult world for what it is, but whose youth renders her powerless. Of course unlike in the real world, Matilda’s powers cannot be contained and burst out in magical ways. As in many of Dahl’s tales, children are empowered to take action to change the world around them.
The BFG is incredibly powerful because it gives children an ally against their greatest nightmares (literally).
And Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, contrary to its ‘Golden Ticket’ imagery is ultimately not about wish fulfillment. It’s message is that whatever life deals you (whether it be the poverty of the Bucket family, or the excesses of Veruca Salt, or even a Golden Ticket), it is your own character and actions that will determine your fate.
The stories have messages, but they are not preachy, moral lessons, rather they are reflections of the ways that the world actually works, in all its splendor and depravity.
But I must resist the urge to overanalyse. Much of the magic comes from the fact that the books are wickedly fun.
I mean: “Goldilocks, like many freaks, does not appreciate antiques.” Beat That.