Roald Dahl •
The BFG •
Three cheers for Roald Dahl, whose sprawling imagination gets a workout in The BFG. The book opens with Sophie, a resourceful orphan, being snatched from her bed by a giant’s hand. “If you can think of anything more terrifying than that happening to you in the middle of the night,” the author comments drily, “then let’s hear about it.”
Fortunately for Sophie, her abductor is a Big Friendly Giant, not one who dines on “chiddlers” the way the Gizzardgulper and Bloodbottler do. Human beans from Panama, he informs Sophie, have a hatty flavor, while those from Wellington taste of boots. But the BFG’s diet consists of snozzcumbers and frobscottle, and his favorite author is Dahl’s Chickens. (The BFG is given to Spoonerisms: “You can search my cave from frack to bunt . . . You can go looking in every crook and nanny.”)
Sophie and her new friend decide that to stop the other giants in their bonecrunching tracks, they must enlist the aid of—the queen of England.
The scenes at Buckingham Palace are nearly as delicious as Dahl’s pretzeled expressions (“Oh swipe my swoggles! . . . The devil is dancing on my dibbler!”). The queen, scarcely fazed at having a 24-foot-tall giant and a nightgown-clad little girl appear at her windowsill, treats them with royal dignity and genuine kindness. To serve breakfast to the BFG, a makeshift counter is constructed of four grandfather clocks topped by a ping-pong table. There he sits on a grand piano surmounted by a mahogany chest of drawers to consume a truckload of eggs and sausages; after the meal he wants to whizzpop. (Don’t ask.)
Does their mission succeed? Well, you haven’t yet been taken from your bed by the Fleshlumpeater or the Childchewer, have you?