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Roald Dahl’s secrets for writing children’s literature are officially up for auction.

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May 19, 2021, 12:02pm

Interesting news for Matilda-heads, or Chocolate Factor-ites, or Witches: as the Irish News noted this morning, a handwritten letter by Roald Dahl, written to a fan in 1989, is up for auction with Hansons Auctioneers with a guide price of £500-800.

The fan in question, librarian Christine Wotton, wrote to Dahl as an undergraduate writing a dissertation on his work; she found his address in the back of a library book and wrote to the author, not expecting a reply. Surprisingly and uncharacteristically, Dahl wrote a lengthy, friendly letter back with another dissertation attached. The letter discusses his approach to writing and his opinion of the function of children’s literature—it reads, in part:

Never shelter children from the world. But basically “the content” of any children’s book is of no importance other than it enthralls the child—and thus it teaches or seduces him or her to ‘like’ books and to become a fit reader—which is vital if that child is going to amount to anything in later life. The book-reading child will always outstrip the non-book-reading child in later life. There are very few messages in these books of mine. They are there simply to turn the child into a reader of books.

After keeping the letter for over thirty years, Wotton is finally letting it go. Says Wotton, “The time has come to share it, for others to read and enjoy his wise words which are dashed off in his wonderfully inimitable, flamboyant style.”

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