BETHEL – Before Superintendent Dave Murphy was the Superintendent of Telstar, he was a sophomore teacher in Massachusetts. One day, their reading teacher handed her two books, saying that she would think he would like to read them. The two novels were James and the Giant Peach, and the other Danny, the World Champion, both written by Roald Dahl.
“They were obviously a little difficult for a second grader to read, but very entertaining,” says Murphy. “So I started by reading James and the giant peach book out loud to my kids and they loved it, then I read Danny, and I fell in love with the book…. at that time the kids were fascinated by it so it became a personal favorite then i moved on and started teaching other classes but i still read these two books to my children.
But Murphy didn’t stop at reading. He showed the students how far you could go if you thought of something to yourself. He had all his pupils write a letter to the famous author. And Dahl answered every student.
“I would read the book to my kids, I would ask them to write him a letter,” Murphy said. “And so we mailed them to him. And he would always respond. We always received a personalized letter from him that was very short but looked like a paragraph from one of his books. I remember (the letters) was a short paragraph or two saying something like “Dear handsome David and all the wonderful kids in your class,” and he went on to say he was sitting in a trailer writing a story and a cow came and ate the curtain on her window … and they’re all different, each of them is different [the letters]. It always seemed like he took the time to write a paragraph for the children. It was quite a connection.
Murphy was also won over by illustrations in novels.
“Every time I read the book, I would walk around the classroom and share the pictures with all the kids,” says Murphy. “It was a good team. I thought he did a good job telling a story and his illustrations really helped convey the feeling of the book. “
Murphy found the illustrator of the two novels he was reading, discovering her name was Jill Bennett. He emailed her. He told her how much his students loved pictures as much as they loved books. She emailed him back that it was good to hear from her and that she still had the originals. The original artwork then sparked renewed interest and, according to Murphy’s understanding, was sold to a library or museum.
“But she did some prints and sent me a copy of a print, the one I particularly liked was that, Danny sitting on the front steps is their trailer where they lived while waiting for his dad to come back from one night [of] poaching of pheasants.
But Murphy’s impact doesn’t end there. When his students became adults, they arranged a meeting for him in Massachusetts.
“They had a reception so it was fun, a chance to bring people together, it was a fun day. It was interesting because many of them remembered Danny, the world championMurphy said with a smile, before pulling out a copy of Danny, the world champion and smiling.
Boston Post Cane awarded to Eleanor DeNormandie