cover image My Year

My Year

Roald Dahl. Viking Children's Books, $14.99 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85397-7

In the year before he died, Dahl (1916-1990) recorded his impressions--drawn from a lifetime of rich experiences in the English countryside--of each passing month. This delightfully warm and intelligent book is the result. The renowned author describes the natural world as he recalls childhood feelings and events, including memories of cherished toys and games, and a spectacular prank. In a thoroughly beguiling mix of tones, the narrative voice is at times opinionated (``What has happened to these children? . . . Boys should want to climb trees''), censorious (``The cuckoo is the nastiest bird in the sky. Too lazy to build its own nest, too lazy to feed its own young''), paternal, factual and confessional (``I had learnt even at that tender age that there are no secrets unless you keep them to yourself, and this was the greatest secret I had ever had to keep in my life so far''). Throughout, Dahl comes through strongly as a genial, witty and occasionally eccentric soul. Blake's watercolor and ink illustrations, simultaneously defined and soft, and made whimsical with curvy lines, are an ideal match. All ages. (Feb.)