Roald Dahl has become famed for his seemingly boundless imagination and whimsical tales, which have led to children’s classics such as Matilda, The Witches, BFG, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Peculiar but wondrous occurrences are at the heart of his works, drawing in children and adults alike with reminders that anything can happen in a story.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More gathers seven short tales that continue Dahl’s enchantment. “The Boy Who Talked with Animals” discusses the narrator learning of a child who seeks to save the life of a turtle slated to become soup at a hotel, and “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” details the misadventures of a man who gains a type of X-ray vision through careful meditation—at first for selfish goals, but then more a much better purpose.
However, it feels like many of the pieces in this collection, while children could read and enjoy them, would resonate the best with older children and adults. Their protagonists are generally adults, and many of them come from the first-person perspective of writers, which Dahl hints is himself in certain cases, and then explicitly states in other cases.
In other words, this book feels like a gift given someone who has grown up loving Dahl’s children’s stories and wants to enjoy those same fantastical qualities but aimed specifically at them. “Lucky Break,” for instance, tells how Dahl became a writer and has his tips for anyone interested in creative writing, while “A Piece of Cake” is his first published story. Reading those two nonfiction stories, the second of which describes Dahl’s experiences in World War II, are intimate experiences. It was as if Dahl opened the door to his workplace, sat us down, and shared secrets that he decided we’re mature enough or ready to hear.
Do you have a favorite Roald Dahl story? What were your impressions of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, if you have read it?