Tag Archives: Dahl (author)

The BFG Review

the_bfgThe BFG by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1982. 978-0374304690

Synopsis: Sophie doesn’t believe in giants….until one night when she happens to see one out the orphanage window. Naturally, the giant kidnaps her and whisks her away to his cave, which really isn’t as bad as it sounds. You see, most giants would have already eaten Sophie whole. But this is the Big Friendly Giant, who blows good dreams into the children’s windows as they sleep. So when the child-eating giants decide that England will be their next buffet, Sophie and the BFG must come up with a srumdidilyumptuous plan to outwit them.

Why I picked it up: It was one of my brother’s favorites when he was in elementary school and it is the only book I remember him reading that made him laugh out loud.

Why I finished it: My brother reads just as voraciously as I do, but somehow we grew up reading very few of the same books. We both read and liked many Roald Dahl books over the years, but this one eluded me for some reason or another. The BFG has the traditional mix of lighthearted and dark moments that are the hallmark of Dahl’s stories, while offering an explanation for whence come our good and bad dreams. What struck me was the element of peril running throughout the story, something that I don’t recall being quite as prevalent in his other works. The reader recognizes that the BFG wants to keep Sophie safe from his child-munching brethren, but there is still a fear that keeps hold of us page after page and chapter after chapter. Will it work? Will the giants discover Sophie? Can this girl and the giant convince the Queen that giants exist so they can save England? Will the BFG be able to eat anything other than snozzcumbers? But the dark is somewhat balanced out by the backward nature of the BFG himself. We see that he is on the outside of the clan, partially because of his refusal to eat “human beans”. We laugh at the notion that he has stolen a child’s schoolbook to be able to learn how to write. We are endeared by his jumbled speech and mixed-up metaphors. Though Sophie tries to set him straight, she eventually accepts that by trying to correct him, the two will merely become more and more confused. Blake’s illustrations add to the quirky nature of the story, drawn in abrupt strokes with heavy lines that still manage to give the characters a realistic quality. It’s a story about the power of sheer determination and the idea that friends come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in the most unlikely places.

Other related materials: Matilda by Roald Dahl; James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; The Witches by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; The Twits by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren; Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White; Stuart Little by E.B. White; Pax by Sarah Pennypacker

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James and the Giant Peach review

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl; illustrated by Quentin Blake

Alfred A. Knopf, 2002. 978-0-375-81424-2

Reason for challenge/ban: Magic/witchcraft, communism advocacy, racism, drug/alcohol references, offensive language

Synopsis: After his parents are killed in a terrible rhinoceros accident, James Henry Trotter goes to live with his two horrible aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. The two women feel no affection for James and make him do most of their chores and sleep in a tiny room with a very small window. One day in the garden, James is met by a peculiar stranger who hands him a bag of magic worms, telling him that if he eats them, wonderful things will happen to him. Unfortunately, James trips over the roots of the old peach tree on the way to the house, spilling the contents of the bag and causing extraordinary things to happen. A peach begins to grow from the tree that has never produced fruit, and when James ventures inside it the next night, he finds a grasshopper, a ladybug, a centipede, a glowworm, a silkworm, and a spider inside waiting for him so that they can being a fabulous adventure.

Why I picked it up: It was a Christmas gift from my aunt and uncle when I was seven.

Why I finished it: Dahl’s story is quirky and imaginative, and the reader is instantly endeared to the characters. James’ adventure is one that reminds us about how much we wanted to run away from home and experience the world from a different perspective. While I am sure that no one has family that is quite as mean as Sponge and Spiker, the characters are entertaining to read about in a way that makes one glad that their family is, by comparison, much nicer. The premise of the story is highly illogical, but that is part of the magic of children’s stories – there is no rulebook as to how the story will go or what the characters will do in any given situation. Personally, if it happened to me, I would be horribly frightened of the giant insects regardless of how friendly they were, but I am also not between the ages of 9 and 12. There is also something very reminiscent of Doctor Doolittle in that James is talking to creatures that would otherwise have no voice (if it were not for the magic worms). I think this speaks to the fact that as children, we have such a different knowledge of the world around us – everything is new and wonderful and exciting, and I daresay we lose a little bit of this fascination as we grow older. James and his story remind us about how we used to see the world, how we should see the world, and of the power of unfailing kindness.

Other related materials: James and the Giant Peach (movie); The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Clearly; Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume; Stuart Little by E.B. White; Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl; Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl; Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater; Matilda by Roald Dahl; The BFG by Roald Dahl; Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl

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