Boy: Tales of Childhood

Roald Dahl

 

Box


        On the first day of my first term I set out by taxi in the afternoon with my mother to catch the paddle-steamer from Cardiff Docks to Weston-super-Mare. Every piece of clothing I wore was brand new and had my name on it. I wore black shoes, grey woollen stockings with blue turnovers, grey flannel shorts, a grey shirt, a red tie, a grey flannel blazer with the blue school crest on the breast pocket and a grey school cap with the same crest just above the peak. Into the taxi that was taking us to the docks went my brand new trunk and my brand new tuck-box, and both had R. DAHL painted on them in black.

         A tuck-box is a small pinewood trunk which is very strongly made, and no boy has ever gone as a boarder to an English Prep School without one. It is his own secret storehouse, as secret as a lady’s handbag, and there is an unwritten law that no other boy, no teacher, not even the Headmaster himself has the right to pry into the contents of your tuck-box. The owner has the key in his pocket and that is where it stays. At St. Peter’s, the tuck-boxes were ranged shoulder to shoulder all around the four walls of the changing-room and your own tuck-box stood directly below the peg on which you hung your games clothes. A tuck-box, as the name implies, is a box in which you store your tuck. At Prep School in those days, a parcel of tuck was sent once a week by anxious mothers to their ravenous little sons, and an average tuck-box would probably contain, at almost any time, half a home-made currant cake, a packet of squashed-fly biscuits, a couple of oranges, an apple, a banana, a pot of strawberry jam or Marmite, a bar of chocolate, a bag of Liquorice Allsorts and a tin of Bassett’s lemonade powder. An English school in those days was purely a money-making business owned and operated by the Headmaster. It suited him, therefore, to give the boys as little food as possible himself and to encourage the parents in various cunning ways to feed their offspring by parcel-post from home.

         “By all means, my dear Mrs. Dahl, do send your boy some little treats now and again,” he would say. “Perhaps a few oranges and apples once a week”—fruit was very expensive—“and a nice currant cake, a large currant cake perhaps because small boys have large appetites do they not, ha-ha-ha . . . Yes, yes, as often as you like. More than once a week if you wish . . . Of course he’ll be getting plenty of good food here, the best there is, but it never tastes quite the same as home cooking, does it? I’m sure you wouldn’t want him to be the only one who doesn’t get a lovely parcel from home every week.”

         As well as tuck, a tuck-box would also contain all manner of treasures such as a magnet, a pocket-knife, a compass, a ball of string, a clockwork racing-car, half-a-dozen lead soldiers, a box of conjuring-tricks, some tiddly-winks, a Mexican jumping bean, a catapult, some foreign stamps, a couple of stink-bombs, and I remember one boy called Arkle who drilled an airhole in the lid of his tuck-box and kept a pet frog in there which he fed on slugs.

Excerpt from BOY:TALES OF CHILDHOOD by Roald Dahl. Copyright © 1984 by Roald Dahl Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
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2

“At Prep School in those days, a parcel of tuck was sent once a week by anxious mothers to their ravenous little sons... .” What does the word ravenous mean in the sentence above?

well-dressed

very hungry

handsome

naughty

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3

What does the reader learn from the selection?

what it is like to travel by paddle-steamer

how to raise and care for various types of frogs

how English Prep School students lived in the 1920s

what English Prep School classes were like in the 1920s

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4

Which feature of St. Peter’s Prep School is mentioned in the selection?

The students wore uniforms that showed they belonged to the school.

The school was open to boys and girls who attended classes together.

The Headmaster taught the classes himself and so had little time to speak with parents.

The entire school was housed in one building so that all the students knew one another.

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5

Why does the Headmaster ask parents to send their children food?

because he would like parents to keep in touch with their children

because he does not want the children to become sad and homesick

because he hopes to save money by providing the children less food at school

because he knows that the children do not like the meals the school cook prepares

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6

“It is his own secret storehouse, as secret as a lady’s handbag, and there is an unwritten law that no other boy, no teacher, not even the Headmaster himself has the right to pry into the contents of your tuck-box.”

Which phrase from the sentence above is a simile?

“It is his own secret storehouse…”

“…as secret as a lady’s handbag…”

“…no other boy, no teacher, not even the Headmaster himself…”

“…the contents of your tuck-box.”