Liv Hambrett

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Life, Motherhood

Today is the Day You Worried about Yesterday

The recent furor surrounding the revising of some Roald Dahl books, reminded me of something I wrote a couple of years ago. I tend to fall on the side of the Philip Pullman take in terms of the entire debate, a balanced way of looking at this entire issue (and I read Roald Dahl voraciously, from a young age, absolutely loved his stuff) but that isn’t really what I want to jump into right now. I just found it interesting that I was already ‘editing’ Dahl as I read him to my children. As someone who had loved the books as a kid, the instinct to remove the truly awful parts was there when I revisited them as an adult and I think that is saying something about how they function – or don’t – today (which is, essentially, what Pullman’s saying).

This is taken from an essay in my latest collection. The essay is called Today is the Day You Worried about Yesterday and it was written in January 2021, exactly two years ago.


January trudges on, wild and windy somedays, icy and bored others. Always, always disinterested in my suffering, in my wet feet and cold hands and dry skin, in my hatred of its very existence. It looks me in the eye, winter, lazily, one eyebrow raised, asking me why it should care. Work keeps me busy and for that I am grateful, even if it means hour upon hour spent talking at a screen. I’m sitting down all the time, a little hunched, a little craned, so when I go downstairs to make a cup of tea or search for something sweet, I stand at the open terrace doors and smell the cold, watch the birds fly overhead, black against the white sky. Remind myself this is a season, necessary, but only a season.

In the long, dark afternoons, we read a lot, do puzzles, play card games. I start reading a chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory out to my daughter every night, editing out the awful parts as I go, the parts where Dahl describes a fat boy in the cruellest of ways, or when Charlie’s grandparents describe a mouthy girl who chews too much gum as ‘beastly’. I won’t have my children hate fatness, nor fear it, nor ridicule it. I feel a bit betrayed as I edit the books I loved as a child. You set me up, I can’t help but think, as the adult judgement of children seeps out from the sentences. You should have known better than to teach us to look down on people. I loved them as a child, of course, but only because I laughed while hoping I wasn’t fat or beastly or a crybaby or a spoilt brat, or worse, monstrous and flabby like Bruce or Augustus. I didn’t question it, I just drank it all up, laughed along and then wrote my adolescent food diaries – one bowl of porridge, one muesli bar, one banana, very good day! – and hated the way my body looked. As an adult, I can connect the dots. As a mum, I watch the kids make their way through their days like five-minute-old foals and my heart breaks. So I edit out the mean things, the punching down things, the narrow-minded things, the wrong connections between character and food or character and education or character and accent. I make sure the boys cry too.

The Therapy of Puppy School is available on Amazon DE as a paperback and ebook and on Amazon UK, US and Australia as an ebook.


  1. Barbara Peters

    26 February, 2023 at 4:46 pm

    I truly understand your editing for your children. As a teacher reading Dahl I did not edit, but instead, depending on the age level, l would pause and we would discuss the meaning and the feelings James had or Charlie or Matilda. The sometimes ugliness of adults, or mean children, (and why they are that way) seen through the eyes of a child can be cruel, and focusing on the feelings of the characters can bring more depth to the lessons Roald Dahl intended. BTW he visited US military schools in Germany and left a signed copy in our school library. I love your posts-stay warm. It’s almost over.

    1. Liv

      26 February, 2023 at 9:17 pm

      All absolutely true and if we were reading them now together, two years on, I’d take that approach for sure (daughter is now 8.5 and son 6.5, so they’re far more able to discuss these words!). I started reading solo much younger than my kids (because we simply start school younger in Aus than they do here in Germany) so I read a lot of Dahl when I was quite young and both loved the wickedness and absorbed the judgement (without a teacher’s guiding hand, eg, to encourage a deeper look at it).

      Sitting tight in the cold, spring is almost here!

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