Fox&Songbird

Books that are truly worth reading

Revolting Rhymes

Roald Dahl

No nursery rhyme is quite as it seems when Roald Dahl has re-written it. Hungry wolves would be advised to watch their step when Little Red Riding Hood is about - and as for Cinderella's prince, well, let's just hope he keeps his head...

Revolting Rhymes was first published in 1982 and was the first of Roald's collection of comic verse for children. With illustrations by Quentin Blake, Revolting Rhymes sees Roald take six well-known fairy stories and give them a wholly new set of Dahl-esque twists.

Recommended by Cait

Even though I drew up a longlist of books I love I struggled with choosing the fifth title as none of the others on the list seemed as good as the other four. I started thinking that maybe the book wasn’t on the longlist and so thought about which books never fail to make me smile, and there it was: Revolting Rhymes. I even wrote a dissertation on it (surely the true test of whether it stands up under repeated reading and overanalysis) and yet I still love it, for the childhood memories I associate with it, the humorous rhymes and the general Dahl-ish quality. Some people might say it’s only for children but I don’t agree, these re-interpreted fairy tales demonstrate that happily-ever-after doesn’t really exist. The poems even provide arguably better role models than traditional fairy tales with Goldilocks seen as a burglar and vandal, Cinderella deciding that a decent man is better than a rich man and Little Red Riding Hood standing up for herself against the wolf, with some of my favourite lines ever:

The small girl smiles

One eyelid flickers

She whips a pistol from her knickers.

It’s a short book which is easy to read and entertaining and may distract you from real life for a bit – after all, life’s too short to be serious all the time!