Monday, April 22, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The BFG by Roald Dahl

The BFG by Roald Dahl (first published in 1982)

Sometimes it makes a nice change to feature a classic...

I'm a huge Roald Dahl fan--but had not actually read this one until a few weeks ago. The local children's theater produced a play of it, and my middle son, the thespian, loved it so much that he begged me to do a BFG (which stands for BIG FRIENDLY GIANT) table at his school's book event which takes place next Friday. I've been able to persuade him I won't be on stilts, but we are planning to make some nifty-looking BFG ears!

The Story (via Goodreads):
The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It's lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, or any of the other giants—rather than the BFG—she would have soon become breakfast. When Sophie hears that the giants are flush-bunking off to England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!

Opening Lines: 
"Sophie couldn't sleep.
A brilliant moonbeam was slanting through a gap in the curtains. It was shining right on to her pillow."
(Which goes to show that you don't necessarily have to open a novel with linguistic or situational pyrotechnics. However, it does help to start with making the reader question. In this case, "why can't she go to sleep?")

What I Liked:
The inventiveness of the language was the most immediately dazzling thing. Dahl gives the giants their own variant of English ("redunculous," "squackling whoppsy appetite,"rotsome snozzcumbers" are just three of the BFG's phrases taken at random.)
The relationship between the BFG and Sophie. Although the BFG has effectively kidnapped Sophie (and this fear is well-portrayed in the first pages) he is very tender and protective of her--and she comes to like him too. Together, they plan to stop the giants who eat "human beans."
The BFG himself. A "titchy" runt of a giant (at a mere 24 feet tall), the BFG is a dreamblower, and takes great delight in finding the right dreams to bestow on children. His giant ears are attuned to the slightest sound, and he tells Sophie that each dream has its own music. He's a delightful character.
The illustrations by the illustrious Quentin Blake.

About the Author:
Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was born in Wales of Norwegian parents. After successfully publishing adult fiction and short stories, he began writing children's stories in 1960, as entertainment for his own children, to whom many of his books are dedicated. Other novels include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda. You can visit his website and see yet more wonderful Quentin Blake illustrations there! (It does make "whizzpopping" noises too!)