Every Roald Dahl Novel, Ranked

best roald dahl novels

Roald Dahl is, without doubt, one of Britain's best-loved children's authors.

Creator of some of the most imaginative storylines and characters in children's literature, Dahl provides wonderfully immersive worlds for children to get lost in. He is also responsible for some of the genre's most gloriously grotesque villains (we challenge anyone to come up with a better name for a spoilt child than Veruca Salt).

With a wealth of work to his name, we thought it might be useful to round up some of the classics. Okay, so it isn't EVERY Roald Dahl book -- we've left off a few of the more obscure and slimmer titles (here's looking at you, 'Roald Dahl's Guide to Railway Safety'), but all the gems are on here.

Chances are, you've already come across many of them, whether in your own childhood, or when reading with your children today. Whether you're trying to decide which to go for next, or are simply taking a trip down memory lane, we present: the best-loved novels by Roald Dahl, ranked.

12. Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator

Following on from Charlie Bucket's adventures in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory (see further down the list), Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator sees Charlie take on aliens, space hotels and age-reversing grandparents. Still jam-packed with fun and adventure, the sequel is perhaps a little less memorable than its predecessor. Worth a look, though, for all you die-hard Dahl fans.

Age range: 7-11

Pages: 208

11. The Magic Finger

A cautionary tale to any hunters out there, The Magic Finger tells the story of a little girl who has a finger with  extraordinary powers. When her neighbours, the Gregg family, decide to go out hunting defenceless animals, she feels an anger that proves hard to overcome. Little do they know what her magic finger has in store for them...

It's a classic Roald Dahl story of kids showing grown-ups what's what, and has a moral element that allows for  learning opportunities with younger children. An enjoyable tale, if not one of his best.

Age range: 6-8

Pages: 80

10. George's Marvellous Medicine

When mischievous George is asked to bring his crotchety old Grandma her medicine, he decides to concoct a new solution that might teach her a lesson. It goes without saying that the results are extraordinary. One of Dahl's shorter books, George's Marvellous Medicine is a little uneven at times when it comes to plot, but still great fun.

Note: if your child does get their hands on this one, it might be a good idea to have a talk with them about the inadvisability of creating at-home medicines. Particularly if they love their grandmas.

Age range: 7-11

Pages: 128

9. The Giraffe And The Pelly And Me

Who knew window-cleaning could be so much fun? A fabulous romp through countless window-related adventures, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me tells the story of a boy named Billy who dreams of owning a sweet shop, and the ladderless window-cleaning company that just might be the thing he needs to achieve his dream. With a giraffe for a ladder and a pelican's mouth for a pail, this story has all the ingredients for a classic Roald Dahl adventure.

Age range: 8-11

Pages: 96

8. Esio Trot

girl reading roald dahl novel

A touching story, quite different from Dahl's usual raucous adventures, Esio Trot tells of a lonely old man too shy to confess his feelings for his kindly neighbour, Mrs Silver. How will he win her affections? With a tortoise, of course! A sweet and whimsical tale for all ages, this short little book portrays love and human connection with a good dose of Roald Dahl's trademark playfulness. Richard Curtis' 2015 BBC adaptation with Dustin Hoffman and Judi Dench is also worth a look.

Age range: 6-10

Pages: 80

7. The Witches

Fabulously creepy and original, The Witches is definitely worthy of its place in the top 10. Set between Norway and the UK (a nod, perhaps, to Dahl's Norwegian ancestry), it tells the story of a secret community of child-hating witches distinguishable by their large nostrils, blue spit and the talons they hide under their gloves. Can our young hero and his witch-fighting grandmother bring a stop to their evil deeds?

With many grizzly twists and turns, this isn't one for younger children; for those that can stomach it, it's a gripping tale.

Age range: 9-11

Pages: 368

6. The Twits

You've never seen more ghastly villains than in Roald Dahl's much-loved book, The Twits. Whether it's Mr Twit, with his gruesome collection of cornflakes and other debris in his unwashed beard, or Mrs Twit and the stick she carries to beat animals and small children, they are so deliciously vile that even parents won't want to miss out on the fun. From worms in the spaghetti to an eventual rather sticky end, The Twits is a grisly tale that will keep you hooked from start to finish.  

Age range: 8-10

Pages: 112

5. The BFG

roald dahl BFG
© Illustration by Quentin Blake, via roalddahl.com

Not just a giant, but a big, friendly one at that, The BFG is the loveable companion to eight-year-old orphan Sophie in one of Roald Dahl's best-loved books. Full of fantastical language  ('snozzcumbers', 'frobscottle', 'whizzpopping' and 'telly telly bunkum box' being a few good examples), and even more fantastical adventures, The BFG is a story of friendship, kindness and bravery. Oh, and child-eating giants, naturally.  

Age range: 8-11

Pages: 224

4. James And The Giant Peach

Dahl never shies away from depicting tragedy and hardship, and this is most evident than in James and the Giant Peach, his first classic children's novel. In this book, young James Trotter's parents are killed by an escaped rhinoceros and he is forced to live with his despicable aunts, the brilliantly-named Spiker and Sponge. The epic round-the-world tale that follows, in which James befriends a group of insects who live inside a giant peach and embarks upon a string of adventures, is some of Dahl's most exciting work.

Age range: 7-11

Pages: 176

3. Fantastic Mr Fox

The legendary story of a crafty fox outsmarting three buffoonish farm-owners named Boggis, Bunce and Bean has got to be at the top end of this list. A classic tale of the underdog (or fox?) triumphing over his enemies; with a little  help from friends the Badgers, the Weasels and the Moles, Mr Fox is set to pull off his most daring heist yet... What's not to love?

Age range: 7-11

Pages: 112

2. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Perhaps the best-known of Roald Dahl's works, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a treat almost as delicious as the sumptuous sweets described within its pages. Poor sweet-natured Charlie lives a meagre life with his parents and four grandparents (who are forced to share one bed) until he wins a golden ticket to visit Willy Wonka's wondrous chocolate factory. The adventures that follow, chock-full with delectable confectionary, a cast of truly abhorrent children and, of course, the eccentric Willy Wonka himself, are enough to spark any child's imagination.

Age range: 8-11

Pages: 208

1. Matilda

matilda roald dahl
Image © 2016, Puffin

And so, to our winner. The story of the brilliant young Matilda's vengeful rebellion against her awful parents (and later, her fearsome headteacher) has won hearts the world over. It's not hard to see why; it's a book that celebrates childhood, reading and learning, and it does so with unbeatable charm. It's got all of Dahl's signature themes: children overcoming hardship, tyrannical grown-ups getting their comeuppance, and a healthy dose of magic, for good measure. The 1996 film directed by Danny DeVito is a heartwarming treat. The musical has run in the West End for the past 10 years. But are they the same? Of course not. This is Dahl at his finest.

Age Range: 7-11

Pages: 256

For The Fans:

If you're a Roald Dahl fanatic, take a look at 12 Things You Never Knew About Roald Dahl, Roald Dahl Costume Ideas and Roald Dahl Crafts and Activities.

Header Image © roalddahl.com



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