Published: 1982
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrated by: Quentin Blake


My introduction to Dahl….

An ongoing bone of contention in a couple of the #BookTwub discussions has been the feud between fans of Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl as to which is the greatest children’s author.  One week Blyton came out on top but the following week Dahl triumphed.  I have been firmly on the side of Blyton – as a child I loved The Famous Five, Secret Seven and the Malory Towers adventures.  I pooh-poohed any suggestion that Dahl could possibly be as good, this was from a position of ignorance though as my only Dahl experience had been from reading his collected short stories.  Darren decided to force the issue and came home from work one day with two box-sets.  One was the first ten Famous Five novels, the other 15 Roald Dahl children’s books.  I was challenged to read them all and come up with a fully informed conclusion.

I decided to start with The BFG.  I knew that BFG stood for Big Friendly Giant but other than that I was in the dark as to the story.  Little orphan girl Sophie meets The BFG when she sees him blowing dreams into a neighbour’s bedroom.  The BFG takes Sophie to his home country where he explains that all other giants eat humans, but that he does not.  Instead he collects dreams and gifts them to sleeping children.  Sophie is horrified that there are 9 giants traveling the world eating people and hatches a plan to visit the Queen and stop the nightly snacking.

What first struck me about The BFG was the richness of the language used and the inventiveness of the language created.  It was great fun to read words like “Whoppsy-whiffling”, “squifflerotters” and “snozzcumbers” out loud.  I can imagine the delighted giggles from children having this story read to them.

I can also very easily imagine the nightmares of children who are completely terrified by the thought of nine giants with names including The Childchewer, The Bonecruncher and The Fleshlumpeater striding around the streets looking for tasty families to munch on.  Dahl doesn’t tone things down in order to make the story more palatable for sensitive readers and I love The BFG for that.  The book won’t be suitable for every child out there but for the ones who do read it, it is a gruesome and fun story.

The illustrations by Quentin Blake compliment the words perfectly.  My particular favourite is the one of the nine giants being carried off by helicopters, Chinooks I think but can’t be sure.  The drawings add richness to the book and it would have been a less enjoyable experience without them.

As an ardent Royalist I was pleased to see Her Majesty The Queen playing a prominent and heroic role in The BFG.  Next time someone asks why we should retain the Monarchy I’m going to point them to this book – no President would ever be quite so sensible (tongue only very slightly in cheek).

I was bowled over by The BFG.  I absolutely loved it.  But is Dahl better than Blyton as so many people claim?  I don’t know.  I’ve got much more reading to do before making up my mind.

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