This review was written by Ruth Gordon and printed in the January 9, 1983 edition of The New York Times.
“Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake are uncanny…”
THE BFG. By Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 221 pp. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $10.95. (Ages 9 to 13)
Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake are uncanny in their understanding of what children like to read and see. Thus some adults will be intensely offended.
Sophie, an 8-year-old orphan, is kidnapped by the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) and taken to Giantland, where she sees nine giants who, unlike the gentle title character, eat children. Bonecrusher, Fleshlumpeater, Childchewer and the rest of the nasty giant clan are disdainful of the BFG for his kindness and vegetarian ways. Mr. Dahl offers just what many children like: humorous yet chilling descriptions of the giants and their evil doings. The BFG knows his colleagues may knock him about but will not kill him; spunky litttle Sophie, however, is always in danger.
The BFG has taken upon himself the delivery of “Lovely golden dreams” to earth’s children. These dreams and nightmares will appeal to the “dreams of glory” syndrome of children. Youngsters will delight in visions of power over adults; the author knows that children are essentially anarchistic and revolutionary.
Mr. Dahl has created a sense-nonsense language for the BFG. The giant is literate but does get mixed up badly in his speech and writing. He has learned to read from a copy of “Nicholas Nickleby” by “Dahl’s Chickens.” “Whizzpopping” by any other name is giant, coruscating flatulence – “glumptious music” to the BFG. “Swatchwallop” is the disgusting garbage taste of “snozzcumbers,” and so on.
Fortunately, Sophie’s alliance with the BFG and the Queen of England, her “Majester,” the “Ruler of Straight Lines,” results in the capture of the nine evil giants.
Children will enjoy this book. Many adults will dislike it. Thus, The BFG is a success since it allows children a recognition of the habits, dreams and humor that they alone possess. Mr. Dahl appeals to a child’s sense of justice, morbidity and humor. An occasional humorous finger poked at the established habits of the world should harm no one and delight many.