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A book I remember borrowing on a regular basis from the library when I was younger was Roald Dahl's Dirty Beasts. When I saw it for sale in the book people catalogue I decided immediately to purchase it for my son based purely on nostalgia. I gave the book to him as a present last Christmas and this is my experience of it.
I bought the book in a hard back formal which has a recommended retail price of £14.99 on the back cover but from memory it cost me £3.99. The book being hard back feels really good quality and like it will last many more years to come. The front cover of the book features a picture of various animals creeping up on two unsuspecting children and we are told that the book is written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake.
Inside the book there are nine different little stories and there is no contents page featured in the book so it is literally a case of scrolling through the book until you find the part you want. The small tales in the book are as follows:
The ant eater
The toad and the snail
The tummy beast
Each of the individual segments varies in length and so some cover a few pages whilst others are just over one or two. What is the same though is the fact that the writing is central to the page and is written in small sentences so it looks like one thin block of text within the page. The language used in the stories is written using rhyme and I like how the text flows because of this. I do think that this is the kind of book that you would need to read to a child though because there are a lot of tricky words used which would perhaps be difficult for them to tackle. I also think that as an adult it is fun to build the suspense as you read the story to your child because they quite often have parts where you could make the listener jump which is something my son loves!
A lot of the animals featured in the book are baddies who like to sting or eat people but to break this up there are tales of a flying cow and a toad so large he could jump to France. I do think that despite the scarier tales being broken up that if your child is easily scared then this book may be best avoided.
The illustrations in the book are done by Quentin Blake. They are wonderful as they seem so detailed yet seem somewhat roughly drawn as well. He does an excellent job of making the animals look a little but menacing but not too threatening as well if that makes sense.
My son and I have dipped in and out of this book over the past year and whilst it isn't a current favourite for him I do feel confident that as he grows older that this book will be read more and more as I enjoyed it when I was older than my son, who is six now. If you see this book at a good price I would certainly recommend picking it up!
Thank you for reading my review!
As a kid, I used to love Roald Dahl's books, although his poetry is not something I ever really delved into. Dirty Beasts is an anthology of some of his poems, featuring animals in all manner of gruesome and unnatural scenarios. Gruesome is perhaps the key word in a way, but very much toned down and splashed with a good dose of humour and a lack or reality so as to not deter kids and make them afraid.
The collection features 9 rhyming poems, starting off with a bit of role reversal: a pig with a big brain who tries to work out why pigs have a hard time of it. There is a hint of revenge where the butcher is concerned, and it's a funny and thought-provoking start to the book. It's quickly followed by a potentially scary tale featuring Crocky-Wock the crocodile, who likes to eat children for his lunch! The thing about this, though, is that it's done very much with a lack of reality, such as not liking mustard when he has girls, and is matched very well with Quentin Blake's rather tame and humourous illustrations.
Indeed, the scare potential is there, but in a way it's up to either the parents to present the book in the right way, or the child to realise that there is nothing real about any of it. The humour does win over, and after these two medium length poems, each a couple of pages long, we get a short tale of a lion as we explore just what it is he likes to eat. By the end of this one, I was thinking that the book was so heavily devised towards eating people that I wasn't too sure about the suitability for a child, but stuck to my trust in the author, knowing I enjoyed his books when I was a kid. We were looking through this collection this morning, and I skipped over The Lion, heading straight for The Scorpion, as it does point out early on in the short poem that you won't get one in your bed in this country. However, it's still got a bit of a sting in the tale, and features a kid in bed who is worried as there's a scorpion heading up to bite him in the bum!
There's even more people eating in The Ant-Eater, although this is a rather long and amusing poem that is more laughable than gruesome, and The Porcupine straight after it, as well as The Cow, leave the people eating alone, much to my relief. The ending of The Cow (a flying cow, by the way) was a source of immense amusement to my six year old son this morning!
There's then a really long poem entitled The Toad and The Snail, which lasts for a good handful of pages and is more of an adventure tale, before The Tummy Beast finishes things off in keeping with the rather morbid trend throughout the book. Overall, I'd say it's nice to read one every now and then, at the right time, although I will say it's probably best to avoid The Scorpion at bedtime. You don't want your kids thinking there's a scorpion under their covers!
Quentin Blake's illustrations are all over Dahl's books, and the author and illustrator go hand in hand, much like you may find with Julia Donaldson's books being almost always illustrated by Axel Scheffler these days. Blake's illustrations take away the potentially scary element and add a bit of quirky fun to the poems, which could, in all honesty, be a bit scary otherwise. I really enjoyed reading these, and my son does find them very funny. He's old enough to realise that they're not true, but perhaps younger kids may not be quite so sure, and as I said, we don't attempt The Scorpion at bedtime. Other than that, though, it's a very cleverly written set of poems that did remind me a lot of some of Spike Milligan's efforts in terms of style. Either way, I highly recommend it as a lovely collection of clever poems, with great concepts and I am in constant awe of Dahl's imagination. Recommended.
Some children may grow up thinking that poetry is an art form that is stodgy and boring, or has to revolve around lofty ideas. If that is the case, they cannot have been introduced to Roald Dahl's 'Dirty Beasts', a collection of nine verses each featuring a creature that is either particularly frightening, very clever or quite extraordinary in some way. The book is likely to delight anyone who has enjoyed Dahl's 'The BFG', 'George's Marvellous Medicine' or 'The Twits', amongst others.
'The Pig' opens this anthology: a pig with a massive brain, who wonders what the purpose of his life is. He is clever enough to work it out:
'"They want my bacon slice by slice
"To sell at a tremendous price!
"They want my tender juicy chops
"To put in all the butchers' shops!"'
You can probably guess what happens when Farmer Bland comes to feed him the following morning.
No less gruesome is the verse about 'The Crocodile'. Not the best choice for bedtime reading, as this beast smears boys with mustard before crunching them, and devours little girls with butterscotch and caramel:
'It's such a super marvellous treat
When boys are hot and girls are sweet.'
A single page is then accorded to 'The Lion', who doesn't beat about the bush when it comes to telling us his favourite food. We are then introduced to 'The Scorpion' and told to be thankful that we in England will never find one in our bed - or will we? 'There's something moving on my feet'...
'The Ant-Eater' looks quite cuddly in comparison but beware, looks are deceiving. 'The Porcupine' teaches us the all-important lesson of having a good look before we sit down anywhere. A poor little girl fails to do this before settling on a 'comfy-looking little mound' to eat her favourite raspberry-cream chocolates that she has just bought with her pocket-money:
'My backside seemed to catch on fire!
A hundred bits of red-hot bits of wire
A hundred prickles sticking in
And puncturing my precious skin!'
A very costly visit to the dentist ensues, as mum seems to think he is the best person to remove the prickles. He seems to take great delight in doing so, and well he might with fifty guineas to come as payment.
We might expect 'The Cow' to be a less threatening beast, although Miss Milky Daisy is no ordinary cow but one that grows a pair of gold and silver wings. The crowds come to see her dive, swoop and loop the loop, and all but one of the onlookers clap, cheer and behave well. Can you guess what punishment is inflicted on the 'horrid man' who insults Daisy? Now we know why this anthology is entitled 'Dirty Beasts'.
The final verse in the collection, 'The Tummy Beast', describes a young boy who is convinced that there is someone in his tummy:
' "It's true!" I cried. "I swear it, mummy!
There is a person in my tummy!
He talks to me at night in bed,
He's always asking to be fed." '
The poor boy's mother doesn't believe a word of it. She thinks it's just a 'silly asinine excuse' to be greedy and eat sugar buns and biscuits all day long. To look at this specimen of childhood obesity, you might tend to agree with her. I'm afraid, however, that 'darling mother' nearly dies when she actually hears the beast in the tummy snort, grumble and then actually demand nuts, chocolates and sweets. It's all too much for her.
Quentin Blake's imaginative caricatures add even more to the feeling of fun in this book. He really goes to town on the creatures in 'Dirty Beasts', where The Ant-eater devours an eighty-three-year-old woman (mistaking 'aunt' for 'ant'), flinging her in the air by her pony-tail. In 'the Toad and the Snail' we see grinning Frenchmen brandishing knives as they chase a giant toad; this turns out to be a magic toad who turns first into a giant snail and then into the 'gorgeous, glamorous, absurd, enchanting Roly-poly bird', a beautiful shade of blue with a multi-coloured, stripy tail, on whose back a little boy rides.
The humour here will not, of course, be to everyone's taste, and some of the ideas will be frightening for very young children. Slightly older independent readers, however, who appreciate this kind of humour will have plenty of fun going through this collection and letting their imagination run wild. The illustrations will provide a delightful source of encouragement. The only drawback is that the poems are not split into stanzas, and in a few cases there are as many as thirty-six continuous lines to a page. This could prove a little confusing or off-putting to a young reader who is still gaining confidence.
To anyone who has enjoyed Roald Dahl's novels but has not yet experienced his poetry, I would definitely recommend this collection of verse. I would also suggest it for children who perhaps need encouragement to read poetry and who will not be frightened by the ideas here but will see the funny side to them. There is plenty of rhythm and rhyme, and plenty of entertainment to be had.
by Roald Dahl
with illustrations by Quentin Blake
Picture Puffins 2001
Paperback, 32 pages
Price £5.99 (Amazon £4.49)
We love books in our family. We particularly love Roald Dahl books in our family. More importantly, we love to share our thoughts on such books, discussing the morals and meanings within. Some of our ideas are, quite clearly, preposterous. Mine, mostly, according to Asley. My problem is that I have been tainted by the cinicism of adulthood. So Aslet tells me, anyway. If you ask me, he listens to his grandmother too much. When I say “we”, I mean, more precisely, my nine year old son, Asley, and I. Sure, my daughter loves books, but at 10 months old, she takes the phrase “get your teeth into a good book” a little too far. Similarly, she is not very adept at discussing her thoughts about the books. Her discussion is usually limited to a few rude noises and an extended middle finger (unintentional - it is a habit she has had from birth). This has proved embarrassing, inappropriate even. It has also proved to be the opposite - particularly when our local Parliamentary candidate tried the “baby kissing for votes” routine at the last election. Priceless! My partner, Martin, enjoys a good read, too. Unfortunately, his idea of a good read is a copy of the Sunday Sport (“No, really, it has some good articles!”) or the latest edition of Crops Monthly. Roald Dahl’s’ Dirty Beasts is a favourite of ours, equally good for reading alone or reading aloud. It is an anthology of poems, similar in vein to Revolting Rhymes, only more believable - according to my son: “The tummy beast really exists, doesn’t it, Mum!” “Uh?” “I’ve heard it. In your tummy.” Here, I must add that I have today started a diet. Roald Dahl’s’ beautiful rhyming style is complemeted by delightful illustrations by the inimitable Quentin Blake. Only he could illustrate the tales so aptly! <
br> Anyway, Roald Dahl’s Dirty Beasts - with our thoughts on the morals involved: 1. THE PIG. No ordinary pig, this, for this little piggy did not go “wee wee wee all the way home”. Instead, he had a massive IQ (possibly bigger than the kiddie who won the title of Britain’s Brainiest Kid, but don’t quote me on that!). Piggy knew almost everything - the ins and outs of engineering, aerodynamics - and could even work out huge sums without the need for pen, paper, calculator or fingers and toes. But one answer eluded Piggy: the meaning of life. Of course, had Piggy spent less time on the farm accounts he might have watched Monty Python, and so have been enlightened. But there we have it. One evening, the answer struck him - quicker than a slaughterman’s bullet: “They want my bacon, slice by slice To sell at a tremendous price!” Piggy fathomed that the local butcher wanted to make exorbitant profit from Piggy’s chops, sausages and roastable parts. Good grief, the butcher even wanted his “chitterlings”! (yes, I know what they are - dooyoo?) After a restless night, Piggy takes the matter of his destiny into his own hands: Next morning, in comes farmer Bland, A pail of pigswill in his hand, And Piggy, with a mighty roar, Bashes the farmer to the floor...” So, what happens next? Does Piggy seize the chance to make good his escape? Read it and find out! The Moral: Az: ’Seasy! The pig doesn’t like the swill that Farmer Bland feeds him! Me: Don’t you think that Piggy is more concerned with self-preservation? I mean, he doesn’t want to become next week’s roast dinner! Az: You always look too deeply into things! Adults always do! ---------------------------------------------
2. THE CROCODILE. “ No animal is quite as vile As Crocky-Wock the crocodile. On Saturdays he likes to crunch Six juicy children for his lunch” So begins this poem, and you know instantly that a cautionary tale is to follow. Indeed, Crocky-Wock has turned children into quite a little delicacy, using mustard to add taste to the boys, whilst adding caramel and butterscotch to sweeten the girls. And he should know, the amount he’s eaten! At this point, the narrator asks his child to settle down to sleep. Only the child can’t, for “gallumphing” up the stairs is none other than: “...CROCKY-WOCK THE CROCODILE!” The moral: Me: Sounds like you’d better keep quiet in your bed tonight. Crocky-Wock may be lurking in the shadows outside! Az: *gulp --------------------------------------------- 3. THE LION. A short but not-so-sweet tale. What do lions like to eat? “”Oh, lion dear, could I not make You happy with a lovely steak?” Apparently not. Just like Crocky-Wock, this lion enjoys CHILDREN! The Moral: Me: Better steer clear of lions’ dens, hadn’t you! You wouldn’t like to be devoured by a lion! Az: Not me! I’d wear chain mail like the knights did. He’d never get his teeth through that! Me: But wouldn’t you find it hot, not to mention difficult to move? Az: I never heard the knights complain! You see my problem? --------------------------------------------- 4. THE SCORPION. I dislike this poem. Not because of the way in which it was written, you understand. No, I just hate anything small and crawly. Except my daughter, of course. Usually, anyway! Luckily, according to Mr Dahl, you’ll never find a
scorpion in your bed if you live in England. Phew! This little scorpion, aptly named Stingaling, is well-described in this poem. The reader is swiftly warned of its intentions: “The moment that his tail goes swish he has but one determined wish, He wants to make a sudden jump And sting you hard upon your rump.” The child listening to this warning is in his bed. He becomes more than a little concerned when he feels some movement beneath the sheets (no, I don’t think he’s old enough for THAT yet!). Is it Stingaling? Find out for yourself! The moral: Az: Aaawww, poor little thing! It’s obviously lonely and wants some attention. Why do people treat these animals so badly? They only want friends! Me: Don’t you realise how deadly these things can be? I think the author is clearly warning you of the pain they can cause! Az: God, you’re so unfeeling! I thought we were supposed to treat nature with consideration! God would be ashamed of you! I consider myself beaten. Again. --------------------------------------------- 5. THE ANTEATER. (or “Auntie Vic”, as Asley calls it, due to the startling similarity in nasal size and shape with my sister!) A horrid, fat and spoilt little boy, named Roy, lives in America. Whatever he wants, he gets. “Lucky git!” says Az. So keen is he to stay one step ahead of parents and friends (assuming he has some!) that he thinks up the idea of owning an anteater for a pet. One can only imagine the difficulty his father had in obtaining one, but obtain one he did, from a man in Delhi, India. When the anteater arrived, however, it had clearly been neglected: “The anteater arrived half-dead. It looked at Roy and softly said. ‘I’m famished. Do you think you
could Please give me just a little food?’” Roy replied in the negative, kind, considerate boy that he wasn’t, and ordered the anteater to find his own food on the lawn. “It hunted every inch of ground, But not one single ant it found” What happens next is purely the fault of the American accent. Aunt Dorothy came to stay. Think of the American pronunciation of “Aunt”. Think a bit harder. You with me? Yup. The anteater ate Aunt Dorothy. Not completely sated by this feast, the anteater fancied dessert. If I were to tell you that Roy had hidden, in terror, behind a pile of manure, would you be able to guess the ending? I thought so! The moral: Me: Oh, dear. Poor Aunt Dorothy and Roy. I suppose the moral here is not to starve your pets, isn’t it? Az: Nah. It’s not to talk with an American accent! --------------------------------------------- 6. THE PORCUPINE. Another lucky little child, this time a girl, stars in this poem. After behaving all week, she is given 50p pocket money, and speeds away to the local sweet shop where she proceeds to spend it all on sweets. Looking for a quiet place at which to eat her spoils, she goes to a favourite spot in the wood. She sees what she thinks is a rock upon which to sit, and lands her little bottie right on top of a porcupine. “I ran for home. I shouted, ‘Mum! Behold the prickles in my bum!’” Mum is not too thrilled at the prospect of having to extract the prickles. She suggests the better alternative: “I think a job like this requires The services of Mr Myers. I shouted, ‘Not the dentist! No!’” as Mr Myers spends his waking hours extracting things. Mr Myers is delighted to help:
220;Quite honestly I can’t pretend I’ve ever pulled things from this end!” But extraction comes with a price - 50 guineas. The mother argues, but the dentist holds his ground and she must pay. The little girl has her own moral from this story: “Be sure you LOOK before you SIT!” The moral: Me: Oooh, I think this one has already been discussed in the story, don’t you? Az: No! The moral here is not to be so greedy. If she hadn’t been such a huge pig and bought all those sweets, she would never have sat on the porcupine in the first place! And did anyone think about the porcupine? I mean, his defence system has been depleted by losing all those spines in that girl’s backside! I blame the parents. Whoever they may be. --------------------------------------------- 7. THE COW. Poor Miss Milky Daisy. At the tender age of seven months she is transported to the farm for a lifetime of giving milk for the benefit of mankind. Daisy has a deformity, too: “A funny sort of bumpy lump On either side, above the rump.” The reason for this becomes clear in time - Daisy grows wings. Gold and silver ones! And what’s more, she could fly! naturally, the local television crew had to get in on the act, and people came from far and wide to see her “perform”. All were in total awe of this flying cow - except one, an Afghanistan chap. he mocked Daisy: “That silly cow! Hey, listen Daisy! I think you’re absolutely crazy!” Was daisy downhearted and downtrodden? Nope. But she was downwind, so to speak. What do you get if you stand under a cow? A pat on the head. I need say no more! The moral: Me: Don’t stand underneath flying cows? Az: hahah
ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! I wish I could do this when Miss Bradwell disbelieves me about the Russian spies in the corn field! --------------------------------------------- 8. THE TOAD AND THE SNAIL. Like many children, the little boy in this story likes to spend time paddling in the local pond. However, he was clearly unprepared for the events of one particular day: “Now yesterday, quite suddenly, A giant toad came up to me” This toad could talk, too, and was quite proud of his size and ability. The boy found a startling resemblance between the toad and his Aunt Emily (why not? If we can see the resemblance between an anteater and an auntievic...!) The toad didn’t appear to like the comparison. He bragged about his abilities, and invited the child onto his back to experience said abilities. The boy gingerly agreed, and together they took massive leaps around the country: “Quite literally, we jumped all over, From Scotland to the Cliffs of Dover!” After tea in Dover, they leapt to France. As you do. No doubt they wanted to stock up on cheap wine and beer. There was one thing they hadn’t realised. What is the so-called national delicacy in France? If I quote a couple of lines, would it give you a clue? “”...every person, man and wife Was brandishing a carving knife.” You got there in the end! “They think it’s absolutely ripping To guzzle frogs-legs fried in dripping.” Was the toad worried? Not he, for he was a MAGIC TOAD! he pressed a button upon his head and turned into (wait for it!) - a giant SNAIL! Mistake number two, methinks! The toad/snail remained calm. he simply pressed the button once more to turn himself into a Roly-Poly Bird! They flew safely home. the boy never did tell anyone of his
adventure. “We’re sure it all took place, although Not one of us will ever know, We’ll never, never understand Why children go to Wonderland.” The moral? Me: Errrrmmmmm, be careful when bathing in ponds? Don't accept lifts from strangers? (I was clutching at straws here!) Az: Nah! Don’t go to France if you’re a frog or a snail. Unless you are a magic one, of course. AAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGHHHHHH! --------------------------------------------- 9. THE TUMMY BEAST. “One afternoon I said to Mummy, ‘Who is this person in my tummy?’” This Tummy Beast was clearly responsible for a lot of misdeeds, such as forcing the boy to raid the biscuit tin and demanding sugar buns for tea. Mummy is clearly unimpressed by the boy’s tale, and states that he is fat purely because he is a greedy little git who can’t control his cravings and selfish greed. I know the feeling! Incensed by the boy’s apparent bare-faced lies, she sends her son to bed. The next event saves the boy from an early night, as the Tummy Beast speaks once more: “My darling mother nearly died, ‘My goodness, what was that?’ she cried See? It is real! Honestly! But did the boy’s mother believe her ears? “But Mummy answered nothing more, For she had fainted on the floor.” The moral? Me: The Tummy Beast is real, quite clearly! see, it’s that which makes me eat all your lunch biscuits! Az: So why don’t you believe me when I use that old excuse? Me: You’re too young to have one. Only adults have one. Az: I think the moral is that parents should believe everything their children tell them. So there. Me: Get outta here! My Tummy Beast is about to start!
Az: This diet’s really getting to you, isn’t it, Mum! Kids! You can’t live with ‘em and you can’t live with ‘em!
Dirty Beasts is an excellent anthology of poems written by Roald Dahl. His wicked sense of humour is apparent throughout and accessed by both adults and children at different levels. roald Dahls tongue in cheek attitude to writing comes across well in this anthology and one gets the impression he is 'sailing close to the wind' at times. a lavatorial humour comes across and this appeals to children of all ages. Some parents may find the subject matter a little 'risky' at time, but probably no worse than what they are exposed to on the television.
Roald Dahl's dirty beasts is the follow up to his book "Revolting Rhymes". Dirty Beasts takes a number of animals (crocs, hedgehogs etc) and puts into rhyme the real truth about these animals. Graphic details are not spared. Dahl tells the truth and the humour is cutting and superb, whatever age you are. This collection of rhymes can also be purchased on cassette, with a fitting discordant musical accompaniment. Warning - if you're a prudish parent, you may like to review the book before you expose your little darlings to it. With the standard illustrations from Quentin Blake who, as usual, compliments the bittersweet humour with amusing and witty illustrations, this book is the kind of thing kids really LIKE to read. If you like Dirty Beasts, be sure to get a hold of Revolting Rhymes too (I think Revolting Rhymes is even better).
Dirty Beasts by Roald Dahl is an excellent anthology designed to appeal to children whether they be small or somewhat bigger! Roald Dahl captures his audience by appealing to their 'baser' instincts. Designed to entertain, scare and shock this anthology manages to do all of this. Some of us 'more protective' parents could be excused from having reservations as to the suitability of some of the poems but children adore them - the proof coming in the number of times the book is requested.
This collection of poems introduces a menagerie of comic animals. Meet the poor toad that jumps to France - at his own peril; the pig who ponders on the meaning of life; the anteater who gets the wrong end of the stick; and the porcupine with its painful prickles.