This well-researched work introduces the oft-frustrated clergyman who never quite achieved the high position he desired, and who channeled his strong opinions about the religious and governmental upheavals of 18th-century Europe into satirical writing. Commentary is included on Gulliver's Travels as well as on Swift's other works, such as the satirical essay “A Modest Proposal,” wherein the author unabashedly recommended that poverty in Ireland could be ended if parents cannibalized their children. Unfortunately, the book frequently reverts to a less-than-dynamic recounting of events, and access is problematic. The text runs together visually; bold words, section breaks, and headings are noticeably absent, as are a glossary and a more intuitively arranged index (one must search under “Swift, Jonathan, works” to find Gulliver's Travels). Still, this title stands alone as a biography of the author for young adults, and it is an adequate research tool.
-—School Library Journal on Savage Satire: The Story of Jonathan Swift.
Born in Ireland to English parents, brought up in both countries, and greatly involved in English political affairs, Swift traveled frequently between England and Ireland before finally settling rather unhappily in Dublin in 1713 as the dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral. For many years, he took up the causes of the Irish people in caustic, ironic, anonymous, and often-effective pamphlets, but he is best remembered as the author of Gulliver's Travels. Aykroyd does a good job of presenting what is known of Swift's life and his engagement with the complex political landscape of his times while refraining from speculation about what is unknown and perhaps, at this point, unknowable. The color illustrations include period portraits, paintings, prints, maps, and documents. A time line, a chapter-by-chapter list of source notes, and lists of books and Internet sites are appended. High-school students will find this a useful, informative introduction to the man's life, politics, and writings.
-—Booklist on Savage Satire: The Story of Jonathan Swift.
This biography consistently draws connections between the events in Dahl’s life and the stories he created. Early experiences, such as time spent at English boarding schools and summer excursions to Norway, often influenced his writing. Cruel, thoughtless adults in his fiction were caricatures of people encountered while away at school, and his independent, triumphant child heroes were reflections of his own desire to win over adversity. The writing is straightforward, but fairly dry. Quotes from previously published material, including Dahl’s own autobiographical works, Boy: Tales of Childhood (1984) and Going Solo (1986, both Farrar), are sprinkled throughout. In addressing his later years, Gelletly drew on various books and magazine articles as source material. Details about Dahl's life that are considered more controversial are glossed over fairly quickly, but not completely ignored. Photographs of people and places important to the writer are used strategically throughout the book, and various pieces of artwork from several of his books are also included. This is a fine source for reports, but fans of Dahl's fiction will find his autobiographies to be more satisfying and engaging.
-—School Library Journal on Gift of Imagination: The Story of Roald Dahl.
Recommended for a somewhat older audience than Michelle Houle’s recent Roald Dahl: Author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2006), this biography presents a more detailed account of the writer's life. The first two chapters, concerning Dahl's childhood and his RAF days (ending in 1941) are named after Dahl's autobiographical books Boy (1984) and Flying Solo (1986), which provided the source material. Both books are accessible to the same audience as this biography and offer more vivid, fuller accounts of the same events, but Gelletly follows up with six more chapters tracing Dahl’s personal life, his family, and his career from 1941 to his death in 1990. Colorfully illustrated with many photos as well as some prints, the book concludes with a time line, bibliographies of Dahl’s published works, source notes for the many quotes, a source bibliography, and a list of recommended Web sites. A succinct, informative, and quite readable resource.
-—Booklist on Gift of Imagination: The Story of Roald Dahl.