I picked up this book this summer as part of a plan to read several books for movies coming out which I wanted to go see. As a life-long Roald Dahl fan, I had read The BFG before. I did not remember it being a favorite. (Technically, the top spot belongs to Matilda.) But on re-read, I enjoyed it more than I remembered.
In a nutshell, this book is so charming, but also really terrifying. I love that about Raold Dahl (think Witches and just about anything else), and it almost seems like the right way to approach children: with a little bit of terrifying reality, a load of imagination, and a dash of pure bravery. Seriously, the giants are scary, and there is no glazing over their consumption of humans or their filthiness, nor their abuse of their runty brother. Still, throughout, the book is infused with magic and hope and humanity, and both children and grown-ups (and good giants) win the day.
Part of what I loved about this book is the language. Even more than in his other books, Dahl creates a playground for his language play with the uneducated but curious speak of the BFG. The way the BFG talks will make you smirk or giggle and will stay with you for days and weeks. It also encourages word exploration and experimentation. Dahl pulled it off, too. Sometimes accents can be distracting, but it’s hard to imagine this story without “crockadillies” and “whizpopping.” (You can check out the Roald Dahl dictionary HERE.)
Speaking of whizpopping, there are times when this book (again, like other Dahl books) becomes the sole property of children. At those times, grown-ups have to step outside of the jokes, the juvenile dreams, and the childish behavior and just appreciate the world he is creating for children. We were children, once, too, and it’s great for them to have a place to explore the greater themes of life, like dreams and bravery and smallness.
It’s a quick read. Not only is it short, but Dahl gives you setting, plot, and character, all in a few words here and a few words there. We hear, see, smell, taste, feel, and get to know these people with just a few broad Dahlesque brush strokes. Dahl really is amazing. Genius.
So once I had read the book, I took my kids to see the movie (2016). I had the thought in my head that they might not enjoy it, and there were things that I missed from the book to the screen, but overall the kids loved it and I did too. It was softer than the books, partly because it would have been terrifying to watch “real-skin” giants eat people: bones crunching, blood squirting, what-not. But the movie also retained the book’s playfulness, its language, and its charm. Sophie was a pretty perfect Sophie and the BFG was just plain perfect.