Books Dahl and Magical Picture Book Challenge 2011 Picture Books Poetry Friday Reading Themes

Poetry Friday – Dahl’s Revolting Rhyme (Not for the Faint-hearted, No Siree!)

Today marks the end of our Everything Dahl and Magical theme. And to celebrate, what better way than to join this week’s Poetry Friday (which incidentally is hosted by Laura Salas of Writing the World for Kids) with Dahl’s word play in verse. Together, we can exclaim yuck! eew! coolness! as we read through his Revolting Rhymes.

Iphigene’s creation

Fractured Fairy Tale in Verse. As I was flipping the pages (and chuckling out loud), I was actually reminded of our recently-concluded fractured fairy tale theme for July and August. The only difference is that while all the books we have reviewed were almost-exclusively written in narrative form – this deliciously-repugnant book is written in verse – and the lines rhyme!

In this book, the reader gets introduced to a Cinderella who eventually married – not a prince with a predilection for chopping off women’s heads but – a simple jam-maker, who just happens to make an awesome home-made marmalade (yum!).

I loved how Jack (yes, the one who traded a useless old cow for a bean) discovered the virtues of bathing and rinsing and shampooing (a little conditioner, too, perhaps?) his hair until it gleams and shines.

Recall that the giant atop the beanstalk would continually announce “FEE FI FO FUM, I SMELL THE BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN” each time that Jack tries to steal the giant’s baubles and trinkets. Lo and behold – all it takes is soap and water to dull the Giant’s acute senses – making Jack an instant millionaire!

The reader also becomes intimately familiar with a Snow White who eventually ended up

with seven funny little men,
Each one not more than three foot ten,
Ex horse-race jockeys, all of them.

Naturally it didn’t work for Dahl to have these seven little men work as miners in a dark and sordid cave (heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go), they had to be part of something more exciting. And yes, you’d be pleased with the crafty ways through which the magic mirror can actually make itself useful in predicting horse-race outcomes. Sweet!

Children won’t easily forget Goldilocks who got swallowed up by Baby Bear (with Papa Bear’s blessing and slight instigation, naturally) or the sharp-eyed and trigger-happy Little Red Riding Hood who with a quick “bang bang bang” shot the wolf dead (say hello to her lovely furry Wolfskin Coat).

Dahl’s audacity and Taste for the Macabre. It says a lot about Dahl that he is able to take all the basic elements of the original fairy tale and turn them all over on its head with a sordidly macabre twist. Trust me though when I say that, similar to the Vicar of Nibbleswicke, his irreverent humor may not sit well with others (if anything, Dahl may have made the lines extra-sordid to shock the pants off the punctiliously prim and proper aunts and uncles). My nine year old daughter, for one, is slightly revolted by it, while I just couldn’t help but snicker and laugh uproariously as I read through the rhymes. Here are some of my favorites.

From Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Later, the Huntsman made a stop
Within the local butcher’s shop,
And there he bought, for safety’s sake,
A bullock’s heart and one nice steak.
‘Oh Majesty! Oh Queen!’ he cried,
‘That rotten little girl has died!
‘And just to prove I didn’t cheat,
‘I’ve brought along these bits of meat.’
The Queen cried out, ‘Bravissimo!
‘I trust you killed her nice and slow.’
Then (this is the disgusting part)
The Queen sat down and ate the heart!
(I only hope she cooked it well.
Boiled heart can be as tough as hell.)

From Jack and the Beanstalk

‘Oh mum!’  he gasped. ‘Believe you me
‘There’s something nasty up our tree!
‘I saw him, mum! My gizzard froze!
‘A Giant with a clever nose!’
‘A clever nose!’ his mother hissed.
‘You must be going round the twist!’
‘He smelled me out, I swear it, mum!
‘He said he smelled an Englishman!’
The mother said, ‘And well he might!
‘I’ve told you every single night
‘To take a bath because you smell,
‘But would you do it? Would you hell!
‘You even make your mother shrink
‘Because of your unholy stink!’

Enjoy shrieking eew and yuck as you watch these revolting rhymes on video. As I was searching google for a few resources connected to this book, I discovered lovely video clips on Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. Have fun watching these snippets of fairy tales made beguilingly-gruesome and delightfully-revolting by no less than the master storyteller of all time, Roald Dahl.

Three Little Pigs

Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf


PictureBook Challenge Update: 121 (120)

Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl as illustrated by Quentin Blake. Puffin Books, New York, 1982. Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

13 comments on “Poetry Friday – Dahl’s Revolting Rhyme (Not for the Faint-hearted, No Siree!)

  1. There are times when I think Dahl is way to out there for kids to read his stuff, yet I like him and his sense of humor. And kids seem to also. Love Revolting Rhymes. Thanks for this post and giving me a nice morning chuckle.


    • Hi Alex, thanks for dropping by. If anything, I love loud guffaws and morning chuckles. That, we have to thank Roald Dahl for, he never fails to deliver – notwithstanding his occasionally sordid humor (which works for him, truth be told).


  2. As I said in an earlier comment, I love that you have shared all things Dahl, and this is a chuckly finale of his taste in the ridiculous, which most children love. It brings back memories of my daughter and me reading together. How clever he was.


    • Hi Linda! Glad to hear that your daughter loved his rhymes – my own daughter couldn’t help but grimace and wrinkle her nose in distaste while laughing out loud in shock and horror (she’s a tad conservative that way hahaha) whenever we read his ‘revolting rhymes’ together. I’m glad it reminded you of good times. 🙂


  3. I found reading this to a class of 9/10 year olds around 75% thought these rhyme were grossly funny and the remaining quarter were somewhat perturbed! I like it!


    • Hi Joanna! It always ALWAYS has an effect on kids, that is for sure. 🙂 Perturbed or otherwise, it’s great to see kids engaged in the book. And yes, Roald Dahl is Roald Dahl.


  4. Oh, I love Mr. Dahl! Thanks for sharing these.


  5. I love Roald Dahl. In fact, was reading my copy of ‘The Roald Dahl Treasury’ earlier today (Esio Trot was my morning read). This edition is really a treasure and includes a few Revolting Rhymes too (Three Little Pigs was something I enjoyed reading)


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  8. Pingback: List of Novels in Verse and Poetry Books for Children and Round-up for January 2012 «

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