I was first introduced to The BFG by our elementary school librarian. She asked if anyone had read The BFG or any of Roald Dahl's other stories. My hand quickly shot up. She asked me what The BFG stood for. I thought for a minute and said that I forgot. I had never actually heard of, let alone read the book. I felt pretty stupid for pretending I had read it, so I checked it out from the library and read it that night. I went back to the library the next day and proceeded to get as many Roald Dahl books as we had. They were all great fun to read, but for whatever reason, The BFG always stands out as my favorite. Maybe because it was my first.
The BFG is a children's novel written by Roald Dahl. It features illustrations from frequent Dahl collaborator, Quentin Blake. The book was first published in 1982. It's the story of a young, orphan named Sophie. She sees something strange from her boarding house window at night. Upon investigation she sees a giant, as tall as the two-story row houses on the block, with a peculiar, long, bugle-like device to his mouth. He seems to be blowing into the row houses' windows, but no sound is made. The BFG has giant ears and hears Sophie's heart beat pick up. He goes to her window and takes her away. The BFG takes her to the land of the giants. Sophie is scared, but mostly excited. Dahl's work frequently features characters who have been orphaned, or come from difficult situations, and are whisked away to magical, better places. Perhaps Dahl, like myself, always wanted a more capable upbringing that he didn't receive.
He explains to Sophie that he's The Big Friendly Giant. There are also some nasty giants, his brothers, that gobble up children under the cover of darkness. Dahl uses fantastical language to evoke vivid images of the other giants. Names like The Childchewer, The Fleshlumpeater, and The Bloodbottler are both fun to read, and bring to mind certain qualities about the loathsome nature of the other giants. The bad giants are much larger, four to five stories tall, than the miniscule, in comparison, The BFG. The BFG tells Sophie that the other giants eat human beans. They snatch them up from around the world while they sleep and gobble them down.
Sophie wonders, if The BFG doesn't gobble up human beans, then what does he do? The BFG points to rows and rows of large jars on his shelves. Each jar contains a lovely dream. He explains that he goes to a dream land and collects all the good dreams. He goes to children's windows at night and takes away their nightmares and gives, using the device Sophie saw, children happy dreams. Dahl often presents the outlandish elements of his stories as straight-forward exposition from the horse's mouth. The characters who are not in-the-know intially have difficulty accepting the absurdity. The magical characters are quick to point out that the children are sniveling, snot-nosed brats with little to zero imagination. As a child it's liberating to be given permission to imagine, especially by an adult.
They have a series of close calls with the nasty, gallumping giants. The BFG causes them to fight by giving them all nightmares. With the close calls averted The BFG gives Sophie some Frobscottle, similar to soda except the bubbles travel downward causing Whizzpoppers, instead of belching. Sophie and The BFG whizpopper all over the cave. Dahl zeroes in on what kids find humorous and forbidden, but doesn't make it gratuitous. It's refreshing to read bathroom humor but not feel like it's being presented because the author is all out of ideas. This is clever, yet accessible humor for a younger child to partake.
Sophie is well-read, so she eventually points out The BFG's silly language and how the things he talks about don't exist. The BFG takes offense to the young girl pointing out his mistakes and asks her to stop. He states that he says funny things because they don't have books in giant land and thus all he knows he taught himself. Dahl often has protagonists that are well-read come into conflict with other protagonists who haven't read as much or at all, but have a wider range of experience. It's far more interesting than the standard author line in a book about how wonderful books are and how we should do nothing but read them all of the time. Dahl balances that viewpoint with the idea that experience often teaches just as much as books.
The BFG won various awards soon after its publication and frequently appears on elementary librarians' best reading lists for the 8 to 12 age range, along with most of Dahl's other books. Dahl's inventive language, interesting characters, and fun plots make most, if not all, of his books must reads. However, The BFG stands apart from the rest for, despite its simplicity, or perhaps because of its simplicity, it might have the greatest depth of any of his stories.