Roald Dahl has been classed as 'the world's number one storyteller' by Puffin; along with his illustrator in crime, Quentin Blake, Dahl's books are a bestselling sensation.
Aimed at children, most of his protagonists are between 6 - 11 years old. There are a few exceptions, such as The Fantastic Mr. Fox, but even that features many kids. Esio Trot, however, is quite different in this respect, as there are no children whatsoever. The theme is rather unusual for a children's book too. Esio Trot is a love story between two pensioners.
'Yuck!' I hear kids scream, poking out in their tongues in disgust. But don't worry, Dahl wasn't given the title of world's number one storyteller for nothing. Esio Trot has no mushy, gushy stuff in it. What it does have is a lot of humour, word play, and a tortoise.
Mr. Hoppy is secretly in love with his neighbour, Mrs. Silver. The kindly widow lives downstairs in the flat below; she has a pet tortoise called Alfie, whom she adores, but is frustrated that he will not grow. Mr. Hoppy devises and elaborate and ingenious plan to do the trick. With a magic spell and a bit of deviousness, he hopes to win Mrs. Silver's heart.
Mr. Hoppy is an endearing character; with his shy love sick behaviour, you can't help but have sympathy for him. Yet at the same time, I can't help but feel his trickery is sending the wrong message? Is it really okay to lie to Mrs. Silver in order to win her affection? Most characters who do this would end up with their plan failing, and learning a valuable lesson at the end. In Esio Trot everything goes exactly to plan.
I am also not keen on the fact that Mrs. Silver is so determined to change Alfie. Children should be taught to love who they are, not fit within someone else's specifications.
If a child were reading this, all these facts would probably go unnoticed; they would just enjoy the sheer magic and comedy of the situation. Overall, Esio Trot is a very enjoyable story, and does show that stories about romance and love do not have to be a rhapsody of kissing, courting, jealousy, and unfettered emotion.