Poetry Friday: Celebrating Roald Dahl

Poetry Friday is hosted by Jen @ Teach Mentor Texts
Yippee!! Today is Poetry Friday AND Roald Dahl Day!! Double celebration. 

We will be reading some of our favorite chapters from “Boy: Tales of Childhood,” and “Danny, Champion of the World,”  and I’ve saved some of my favorite clips from Matilda, the movie, just in case we want to keep the celebration going.  All in all, it will be the perfect way to pay homage to Dahl, and celebrate the end of a busy and quite wonderful first week of school.
Dahl wrote some wickedly funny poetry as well, and here is one I’m tempted to hand out on Parent’s Night next week:

“Mike Teavee…”

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did. 
Roald Dahl
For those seeking Dahlesque Mischief and Mayhem, there is a site just for you: 
And here he is, storytelling in his inimitable way:
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19 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Celebrating Roald Dahl

  1. I love this poem, have used it often in the past, Tara! We did have a tv, but kept it in the closet (a small portable), & everyone had to make a good argument for watching something-often it was a school assignment!) Do you also use Henry Sugar in your workshop? It has some good parts about writing! Thanks for the laughs, poem & video!

  2. In our house, television has never been a problem… it's the other sorts of "screen time"– computer and video games and the like. As a parent, I find monitoring the computer the hardest of all because that's where they do their homework. I recently thanked my son's LA teacher because she insists that the kids use pencil and paper. Never thought it would come to that!

  3. This reminded me of Bridge to Terabithia with Leslie Burke not owning a television set and being all the richer for that. I sooo soo love these lines:'How used they keep themselves contentedBefore this monster was invented?'Have you forgotten? Don't you know?We'll say it very loud and slow:THEY … USED … TO … READ! They'd READ and READ,AND READ and READ, and then proceedTo READ some more.Will share this in my FB page. Fabulous! Love it! And yes, I agree with Jama – Dahl has a touch of wickedly-fun darkness to him, true that. πŸ™‚

  4. Hi Tara,I never saw this poem, but Matilda was one of my absolutely favorite read alouds. Oh the voices I could do, oh the focus on words and wit. Have to say I absolutely detest the movie (sorry to those who like it). Maybe read the book aloud 20 times before it came out. The book is not frightening. Filled with fabulous vocabulary. Anyhow, love Roald Dahl and so happy to find this poem. How did I miss it? BUT the thing I want to ask is if you know about the video of him at his home in England. It is one of my favorite things. He shows you where he writes in his little shed in the garden (yard). He just talks and shows you where he got the idea for certain books. It is by The Author's Eye and not sure it is available or not. My friend just called. She is having so much trouble with her kids wanting to be on their Kindles playing games etc. She turns off the tv, but they just don't want to read. I am going to give her this poem tomorrow! Janet F. (aka Janet Clare on FB)

  5. I'm sure all of your students had a grand time concluding the week with Roald Dahl Day! I couldn't get enough of his books when I was growing up and they're still some of my favorites. Thanks for sharing the poem, too. I think it would be brilliant to hand out the poem! May you could also give parents a list your students brainstorm about things they like to do besides watching TV. πŸ˜‰

  6. Forgot! One of my favorite quotes from the video is "you must never let evil triumph"! He also talks about how when writing for children you have to have humor. He says that he laughs at the same kind of jokes that kids laugh at. However, he cautions against being mean-spirited. Another tidbit that I can remember is that he wrote Matilda and then realized, "I got it all wrong", so he spent another year totally re-writing it. I loved sharing that with my students!

  7. I wish I could somehow stop teaching my state curriculum and just go from celebration day to celebration day. I think that would be a valid curriculum in itself! March on Washington, Dot Day, Dahl Day, International Day of Peace…and on and on and on…(Happy first week of school! Glad you're back. Now I don't have to be jealous of you anymore!!)

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