Revolting Rhymes

It's that time of year where I rack my brain for birthday present ideas for my godson, Cole. The child has every toy and game that one could possibly wish for and so I rarely feel too bad about being the reliable godmother who always gets him a book. (To my credit, I always try to find an entertaining book and supplement these with things like Gamestop giftcards or t-shirts with a giant squid attacking the Brooklyn Bridge.) This year, I decided that it might be time to introduce the lad to Roald Dahl. Sure, Matilda and The Witches might be reaching for it a bit, but then I remembered Revolting Rhymes. This is a sure winner of a gift for any child with even a smidge of an interest in reading. Why? Does the title not tip you off? These deliciously awful poems are short, fun, and incredibly wicked. Plus, they're paired with illustrations by the delightful Quentin Blake. This little volume is sure to be a hit and if you are looking to do a sweep of great Roald Dahl poetry, you can also pick up Dirty Beasts.

Revolting Rhymes features reimagined fairy tales, so your recipient should be familiar with the basic Grimm Brothers' fairy tales. In particular, these six poems touch upon Cinderella, Jack and the beanstalk, Snow White and the seven dwarves, Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, and the three little pigs. In general, the stories begin just as you remember, but somewhere along the line we get a bit twisted (as is usually the case with Dahl). Cinderella's prince hacks off the heads of her stepsisters and Cindy realizes she wants a decent man, so ends up married to a jam-maker. Jack learns the benefit of bathing every day at the expense of his mother's life. Snow White and the seven dwarves get rich at the races with a moral that promotes gambling "providing that you always win." Goldilocks ends up eaten as punishment for her crimes. Little Red isn't fooled by the wolf in her grandmother's clothes and gets herself a wolfskin coat. In turn, the three little pigs know just who to call to help with their wolf problem, though unfortunately they don't much benefit from their plan.

Perhaps my favorite two are the last. In Little Red, we have the great lines: "The small girl smiles / Her eyelid flickers / She whips a pistol from her knickers / She aims it at the creature's head / and BANG! BANG! BANG! / she shoots him... dead." In the three little pigs, we have an amusing ending as Little Red exacts payment for her assistance. The poems are all delightful, but I was always delighted that Dahl ended the collection with those two.

If your kids have a wicked streak or perhaps if you're just up to hear them laugh as they see familiar stories twisted, you should certainly consider adding this Roald Dahl volume to your library. Not only will the kids get a kick out of these, but you will, too. An excellent volume for reading aloud, whether that means you're reading to the kids or the kids are reading to you. If they don't have a streak of dark humor, though, then you might steer clear... or at least wait a few years. My godson is nine, though I think this is perfectly acceptable for kids of seven or eight, too.

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