The Umbrella Man and Other Stories

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Before he was a world-renowned children's book writer, Roald Dahl was a master of short stories for adults. The thirteen tales collected here were specially selected for their appeal to teens, and they represent his finest work. By turns shocking, ironic, humorous, and touching, these stories are filled with bizarre twists and unexpected delights. This collection proves Roald Dahl's standing as one of the world's foremost storytellers.

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The Umbrella Man and Other Stories

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Overview

Before he was a world-renowned children's book writer, Roald Dahl was a master of short stories for adults. The thirteen tales collected here were specially selected for their appeal to teens, and they represent his finest work. By turns shocking, ironic, humorous, and touching, these stories are filled with bizarre twists and unexpected delights. This collection proves Roald Dahl's standing as one of the world's foremost storytellers.

"A baker's dozen of barbed, witty, obliquely macabre short stories . . . This sampler of Dahl's writing conveys a sense of his versatility."--Kirkus Reviews

Roald Dahl (1916-1990) is the author of the beloved children's books Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and many others.

Thirteen stories, selected for teenagers, from Dahl's adult writings, including "The Great Automatic Grammatizator," "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat," and "Vengeance is Mine Inc."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
PW called the 13 tales here, all of which previously appeared in collections for adult readers, "Dahl at his merciless best." Ages 12-up. (July) n Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As even Dahl's youngest admirers know, the late master writer can slice through the foibles and flaws of human nature with not just uncommon precision but with gleefully wicked, sometimes macabre humor as well. The 13 tales here, all of which previously appeared in collections for adult readers, show Dahl at his merciless best. There is a greedy, adulterous wife who gets a deftly delivered comeuppance; a sly butler who convinces his social-climbing employer to buy only the rarest of wineswhich he then secretly consumes with the chef while serving his master a "cheap and rather odious Spanish red"; and a shady fellow who more than meets his match when, in his customary disguise as a parson, he attempts to bilk a poor farmer out of a near-priceless antique. "Katina," the volume's chilling, exquisitely crafted centerpiece, ends with the senseless death of a golden-haired orphan who had been befriended by kind members of a fighter squadron stationed in Greece during WWII. The tragic thrust of this tale may hit readers hard. While some adults may deem the characters' martini-mixing, wine-sipping, philandering and marital infidelities inappropriate for those on the younger edge of the target audience, this exceptional compendium will thrill anyone in the mood for Dahl's fabled blade-sharp wit. Ages 12-up. May
VOYA - Richard Gercken
Purportedly chosen to appeal to young readers, these thirteen stories have few young characters and lack that special Dahl-ian (who is now deceased) appeal of children turning the tables on parents or other adults. Most of the stories do contain Dahl's surprise twist for an end, however; in fact, more than one offer the oxymoron of a predictable surprise. The long story Katina contains remarkable, concise description and sustains a wartime mood. The Way Up to Heaven portrays with conviction a mousy wife dominated by her husband, but overall the stories tend to be short on setting, character, and development. The Umbrella Man and the thirty-three-page Parson's Pleasures are essentially anecdotes. Dahl's wicked humor is usually present along with considerable suspense and bizarre subjects, like bees and their secretion of royal jelly, which one can imagine no other writer taking on as springboards. But one problem in Dahl's writing is particularly evident in Vengeance is Mine, Inc. The story is set in America and has all American characters, but the characters talk about paraffin stoves and the late afternoon post. While young adults who are good, habitual readers might enjoy the plots and the turnarounds, most American teens will not be galvanized by stories whose narrative lines feature the value of fur coats, collecting antique furniture, boarding houses in Bath, or vintage wines. Though the publisher classifies the reading level as young adult, even the dust jacket seems more suitable for children, or adults, than young adults. This book was originally published in England as The Great Automatic Grammatizator. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P J S (Readable without serious defects, Will appeal with pushing, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Here's another collection of Dahl's adult stories carefully selected for the teenage crowd who have grown beyond the author's raffish novels for youngsters. The same wry intelligence is obviously behind these tales. Most of them are sly put-ons waiting for the inevitable comeuppance of their slightly shady, or sometimes too innocent, characters. Dahl always wrote well, though, and in "Katrina," a story gleaned from his fighter pilot experience in Greece during World War II, his descriptions turn evocative and moving. These are the sort of stories one means to put down, then finds oneself inexplicably in the middle of the next.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Readers who were turned on to chapter books with the magic of Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970) and the wondrous James and the Giant Peach (1961, both Knopf) will be interested to discover that Dahl began his writing career composing adult short stories--macabre, ironic tales that were translated into scripts for a popular TV series. This collection, based on those tales, is perfect for teen sensibilities. These poisonous gems reflect a British black humor sniping at greedy, pretentious folk. The language is precise, without an extraneous adjective; "The Landlady" is indeed "terribly nice" and Lady Turton of "Neck" prances and snorts like a barely restrained high-strung filly. Teachers looking for examples of irony need look no further than "Parson's Pleasure," in which an overeager antique collector gets exactly what he asks for. Feminists may be a bit offended; Dahl's antipathy for the female sex is rather evident throughout the stories. Wife and family are often an encumbrance in his world. "Royal Jelly" stars a father who is overinvolved in the caring for and feeding of his new offspring; it is a delicious morsel to serve to grown up "Goosebumps" fans. This baker's dozen is a treat for all YA collections.-Marilyn Payne Phillips, University City Public Library, MO
Kirkus Reviews
A baker's dozen of barbed, witty, obliquely macabre short stories, most drawn fromþor at least previously published inþTales of the Unexpected (1979, 1990). Additionally, there is a heart-rending wartime story of a young Greek orphan adopted by a beleaguered RAF squadron, a hilarious tale of two airheads who decide to make a fortune from grateful socialites by punching a gossip columnist in the nose, and "The Great Automatic Grammatizator," a period piece about a primitive computer that whips out hugely profitable novels and stories in minutes. Nearly every story ends with a twist: a scam revealed or going wrong; a sinister revelation; or, as in the final entry, "Neck," a sudden conclusion that derails carefully established expectations. Several stories show their age in dated details, or are slow to develop, and younger fans may find many of the conversations as tedious as the lengthy, satirically exact speeches about bees, wine, and antique furniture. Still, this sampler of Dahl's writing at least conveys a sense of his versatility. (Short stories. 13+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141302713
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 5/1/2000
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 860L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.75 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl (1916-1990) is one of the most beloved storytellers of all time. He wrote many award-winning books for children, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda.

Biography

"I have never met a boy who so persistently writes the exact opposite of what he means," a teacher once wrote in the young Roald Dahl's report card. "He seems incapable of marshaling his thoughts on paper." From such inauspicious beginnings emerged an immensely successful author whom The Evening Standard would one day dub "one of the greatest children's writers of all time."

Dahl may have been an unenthusiastic student, but he loved adventure stories, and when he finished school he went out into the world to have some adventures of his own. He went abroad as a representative of the Shell corporation in Dar-es-Salaam, and then served in World War II as a pilot in the Royal Air Force. After the war, Dahl began his writing career in earnest, publishing two well-received collections of short stories for adults, along with one flop of a novel.

The short stories, full of tension and subtle psychological horror, didn't seem to presage a children's author. Malcolm Bradbury wrote in The New York Times Book Review, "[Dahl's] characters are usually ignoble: he knows the dog beneath the skin, or works hard to find it." Yet this talent for finding, and exposing, the nastier sides of grown-up behavior served him well in writing for children. As Dahl put it, "Writing is all propaganda, in a sense. You can get at greediness and selfishness by making them look ridiculous. The greatest attribute of a human being is kindness, and all the other qualities like bravery and perseverance are secondary to that."

In 1953, Dahl married the actress Patricia Neal; two of his early children's books, James and the Giant Peach (1961) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) grew out of the bedtime stories he made up for their children. Elaine Moss, writing in the Times, called the latter "the funniest children's book I have read in years; not just funny but shot through with a zany pathos which touches the young heart." Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a colossal hit. A film version starring Gene Wilder was released in 1971 (as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), while James and the Giant Peach was made into a movie in 1996.

Dahl followed his initial successes with a string of bestsellers, including Danny, the Champion of the World, The Twits, The BFG, The Witches and Matilda. Some adults objected to the books' violence -- unpleasant characters (like James’s Aunts Sponge and Spiker) tend to get bumped off in grotesque and inventive ways -- but Dahl defended his stories as part of a tradition of gruesome fairy tales in which mean people get what they deserve. "These tales are pretty rough, but the violence is confined to a magical time and place," he said, adding that children like violent stories as long as they're "tied to fantasy and humor." By the time of his death in 1990, Dahl's mischievous wit had captivated so many readers that The Times called him "one of the most widely read and influential writers of our generation."

Good To Know

When Dahl was in school, he and his schoolmates occasionally served as new-product testers for the Cadbury chocolate company. Dahl used to dream of working in a chocolate manufacturer's inventing room. He wrote in his autobiography, "I have no doubt at all that, 35 years later, when I was looking for a plot for my second book for children, I remembered those little cardboard boxes and the newly invented chocolates inside them, and I began to write a book called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

Dahl's first book for children, The Gremlins (1943), was a story about the mythical creatures that sabotaged British planes. (Dahl claimed for most of his life that he had coined the term "gremlins," but it had been in use by members of the Royal Air Force for years.) Walt Disney planned to use it as the basis for a movie, but the project was scrapped, and only 5,000 copies of the book were ever printed.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      September 13, 1916
    2. Place of Birth:
      Llandaff, Wales, England
    1. Date of Death:
      November 23, 1990
    2. Place of Death:
      Oxford, England

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 6 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2004

    Awesome Collection

    This collection contains a variety of witty stories that won't disappoint.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2002

    Dahl's Great Works

    This is a great collection of Dahl's short stories. Recommended for those who like Dahl's stories, with the touch of his way of writing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2001

    Not much for long drawn out stories? This is for you!!

    This book is full of short, entertaining stories. Once you start reading one of the stories you won't want to stop! Take it from me...I am a very picky reader who has to be entertained constantly when reading! This book did that! The stories never end how you would expect them to! There are always exciting twists and turns! There was only one story in this book that I did not enjoy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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