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Roald Dahl hailed with birthday celebrations

india Updated: Sep 15, 2006 20:09 IST
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Children, parents, teachers and adult fans are throwing parties on Wednesday to celebrate what would have been the 90th birthday party of the darkly comic writer Roald Dahl.

"He understood children and identified with them. This is like a great big happy birthday party to acknowledge him," said his daughter Lucy, launching what she and others hope will be a day of improvised "Revolting Rhymes" and "Oompa Loompa" dances.

Exhibitions and children's reading campaigns are also being staged to commemorate Dahl, who died in 1990 and has now sold more than 100 million books in 40 languages.

Dahl initially made his name as a writer of adult fiction, but cult children's classics such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches have more recently overshadowed his chilling adult work.

Children's writer Anthony Horovitz said the recent renaissance in children's literature had begun with Dahl, rather than J K Rowling, author of the phenomenally successful Harry Potter wizard sagas.

"Dahl was perhaps the first author to take the children's side and collude against the smelly, ugly, stupid creatures that inhabit the adult world," he said.

In an echo of Potter's Hogwarts Express, a special train will take visitors from London to Great Missenden, the rural retreat in southern England where Dahl wrote in a hut at the bottom of the garden.

The Dahl Museum, which attracted 70,000 visitors in its first year, is staging walking tours around the village to locations used in his books.

Amanda Conquy, director of the Dahl literary estate, hailed Dahl as the first of children's writers to achieve 'pop star' status. "He was very much the children's choice against their parents," she said.

Some critics have attacked his books as brutish, scary and scatological, but in an interview 20 years ago with Reuters the author supplied his own fitting epitaph:

"I never get any protests from children. All you get are giggles of mirth and squirms of delight. I know what children like."

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