Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The BFG

The BFG
Roald Dahl
FSG, 1982  121 pgs
Grades 3-6
Fantasy/Humor

British orphan Sophie wakes up in the middle of the night during the "witching hour" by a disturbance outside her window. Much to her surprise, she spots an enormous giant blowing a trumpet into the windows of rooms containing children. The large creature spots Sophie and whisks her away to Giant Country. Once settled, they become properly acquainted. The giant's name is the BFG, which stands for Big Friendly Giant and friendly he is. The two become instant buddies and Sophie learns more about Giant Country society. The BFG is not the only inhabitant. Nine other giants reside here and they are all quite uncivilized and blood thirsty. They roam around the world at night hunting for human beans and gobbling them up. The BFG, on the other hand, is a "dream-blower". He collects dreams and blows them into children and, best of all, does not eat humans. The BFG is disgusted at his fellow giant's murderous ways and he and Sophie concoct a plan to stop them. The new friends head back to England, where they blow a dream into the Queen's head. When she wakes up she sees Sophie sitting on her windowsill and knows that the dream was true. Now the Queen invites both Sophie and the BFG to breakfast (no easy task entertaining a giant in Buckingham Palace) where the three brainstorm and eventually figure out a plan to thwart the evil giants. Its back to Giant Country, this time with the British military as back-up, and Sophie and the BFG must work together to save the day.

I am a longtime fan of Roald Dahl (what Children's Librarian isn't?) and am extremely excited about the release of The BFG, a major motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg, this summer. My third and forth grade book group is also excited and so we decided to read this title as our April selection in preparation for the movie. Its maybe the fifth time I have read this book and I still love it. Roald Dahl manages to infuse classic fairy-tale style fantasy with British humor in such a brilliant way that, although many have tried, no one can duplicate. He is the originator of "smart kid fiction" and a huge influence on so many current and important authors such as J.K. Rowling and Lemony Snicket. The BFG is classic Dahl: a hilarious and fantastic romp with fabricated words and outrageous situations. What really makes this title stand out is the vocabulary Dahl conceives for the BFG. What a mind that man must have had to conceive such an array of nonsense words such as Snozzcumber (the disgusting food that the BFG eats), whoopsy-splunkers (fantastic), and whizzpopper (a word sure to entice the potty-humor crowd). Because of the lack of formal education in Giant Country, the BFG is self-taught and often gets it wrong with hilarious results. His name for Charles Dickens is Dahl's Chickens, which ties in with the ending, when it is revealed that the BFG has written the book you have just read and used a pen name cribbed from his favorite author. It is a delicious little twist at the end of the book that will surely satisfy readers. One warning for parents: the story is a little creepy and violent, although the scary bits are stabilized by Dahl's humor, so if your child is particularly sensitive, this may not be the book for him or her. The BFG is a book that begs to be read aloud and has been by both parents and teachers for generations. The illustrations by the marvelous Quentin Blake add to the fun and help to propel the book along. The BFG has formally existed in movie form only in cartoon format. Now the technology is able to make the Big Friendly Giant come alive. I always go to see Roald Dahl film adaptations in the theaters, too excited to wait for video, and am generally disappointed. The movies tend to lose the humor of the books, making the story that much more scary. I have high hopes for The BFG movie, though, and hope that Spielberg will capture Dahl's magic and maybe add some of his own.

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