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- author Jackie French

Friday 13 September 2013

Bookish Places: The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

Trying out Roald Dahl's writing chair
This is the first post in a new series about fabulous children’s book-related places, curated by our fabulous Consultant Librarian, Sarah Steed. It’s a chance to celebrate museums, galleries and other places with a connection to children’s literature and reading. We hope you’ll be as excited by them as we are.

Our first Bookish Place showcases the life and work of Roald Dahl.

Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was one of the world’s most imaginative, successful and loved storytellers. His stories are currently published in 49 languages worldwide. They continue to inspire the world’s most creative collaborators, resulting in wonderful new movie adaptations, classical music, opera, plays and musicals. Over 200 million copies of Roald Dahl books have been sold globally.

On 13 September 2006, the first national Roald Dahl Day was celebrated – on what would have been Roald’s 90th birthday. Response to the event was so phenomenal that Roald Dahl Day is now marked annually, throughout the world.

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre can be found at 81-83 High Street, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, in England, and once you hear all about it, we guarantee you’ll want to visit. There is some super cool stuff to experience!

Many thanks to Kim and Isabelle from The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre for taking the time to answer our questions.

Check your spark factor on the Sparkometer
When and how did the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre begin?

The Roald Dahl Museum opened in 2005 in the author’s home village of Great Missenden, as a dynamic place for 6-12 year-olds and their families to find out about his life and stories, and to get inspired about reading and story-making.

Tell us in ten words or less, why kids will love the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

Because it’s so hands on your feet won’t keep up! (Quote from one of our visitors!)

Must-see features?

Don’t miss Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka coat, the Fantastic Mr Fox film set, Roald Dahl’s funny and rude letters home, or dressing up in Roald Dahl’s school uniform. Be sure to spend some time indulging your creative side in the Story Centre and craft room, and catch some storytelling if you’re visiting on a weekend or during the school holidays.

What do people find most surprising or exciting when they visit?

Visitors are delighted by the chocolate smelling Wonka Bar doors that lead into Boy gallery, and love sitting in the replica of Roald Dahl’s writing chair for a photo. The Roald Dahl character height chart lets visitors see if they’re more Miss Honey or Mr Twit and that gets lots of laughs! Judging by the squeals of delight the storytelling is a winner with younger visitors.

Team work at the ideas table
What’s the most-prized item at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre?

Our most prized item is Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut. It’s the centrepiece of Solo Gallery and is exactly as Roald Dahl left it with all its original contents and furnishings, from the collection of quirky objects on his desk to his writing board and spectacles. Roald Dahl called it his ‘little nest’ and you can learn all about the objects and his writing routine in the gallery.

Tell us about the different indoor and outdoor activities and places to explore.

We have three galleries to explore.  In Boy and Solo galleries you can find out about Roald Dahl’s extraordinary life, and discover the stories behind the stories. In The Story Centre you can fire up your creativity and imagination, make a stop-frame animation, create a character or make up your own gobblefunk word.

As well as storytelling we run a programme of workshops throughout the school holidays and at weekends, with everything from chocolate decorating, to mask making, to museum trails.

If you fancy heading outside you can order a Swishwiffler from CafĂ© Twit to enjoy in our courtyard, or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, pick up one of our local Village or Countryside self-guided trails. These lead you around the local places that feature in the stories, including the house that was the inspiration for Sophie’s ‘norphanage’ in The BFG, and Angling Spring woods which Roald Dahl imagined as Fantastic Mr Fox’s home.

If you could only recommend one Roald Dahl book to read, which one would it be and why?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. With the show on in the West End and next year being the book’s 50th anniversary, Charlie is currently top of our list!

Three things everyone should know about Roald Dahl?
  1. He had a pet goat called Alma (who makes an appearance in George’s Marvellous Medicine).
  2. He was a fighter pilot in World War II.
  3. He is named after the famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.
- Sarah Steed
Interested in taking a Bookish Places trip around the world? Enjoy this sensational map, also created by Sarah.

Do you know of another a wonderful bookish place you think others would enjoy? You can contact Kids’ Book Review’s Consultant Librarian, Sarah Steed, with any suggestions. Email Sarah at sarahATkids-bookreviewDOTcom.