I thought it would be great fun to have a family reunion book club, but when it came time to select a book, I found myself at an impasse. I really wanted us all to read Boys Adrift (will I ever stop talking about that book?!), but it wasn't one that my younger siblings (ages 12 and 14) or my own children would enjoy. So I decided to make everyone read two books (being the eldest child does grant you a certain amount of authority): Boys Adrift and The BFG.
The BFG was a brand-new book for me and for most of my family as well (I think my two sisters-in-law and Mike were the only ones who had previously read it). It is rather unusual that none of us had read it since I know we owned a copy of it; I can distinctly remember looking at the cover and thinking that the story was about some old man whose name I had no idea how to pronounce.
I set my preconceived notions aside and enjoyed absolutely every minute of it.
Sophie is an orphan. One night, she finds herself awake in the ghostly quiet and realizes instantly that it must be the "witching hour." She peeks beyond her curtains and is quite startled to see a giant walking towards her. She ducks back inside but soon finds herself being lifted out of her bedroom window by huge, strong hands.
Naturally, she is terrified, but by some stroke of good luck, she was snatched up by the Big Friendly Giant (BFG for short), who is the only giant in the world who does not guzzle humans for dinner. Sophie soon realizes that the other nine giants are not so nice and eat dozens of humans every night. Together, she and the BFG come up with a brilliant plan (involving a perfectly crafted dream, the queen of England, and Sophie herself) to stop the evil giants and save the entire world.
Discussing this book with my family made me realize (for like the billionth time) that reading is a totally unique and individual experience . . . and that even a children's book can evoke some pretty strong emotions.
One of my very favorite parts of the story was the BFG's way of speaking. If you haven't yet read The BFG, here is a little taste, straight from the BFG's mouth: "And sometimes human beans is very overcome when they is hearing wonderous music. They is getting shivers down their spindels. Right or left?"
It is a strange mix of primitive grammar, new words, and twisted phrases. I found it to be delightful, witty, and highly creative. My brother? Hated it. He thought it was distracting, ridiculous, and over-the-top.
I sat there listening to him rant against the BFG's adorable way of speaking, and my heart broke a little. How dare he say such discriminatory things against so upstanding and noble a giant? Couldn't he have a little sympathy for someone who, in the giant's own words, "sometimes is saying things a little squiggly"? After all, "there never was any schools to teach [him] talking," so we really must be sympathetic if "somehow or other [his words] is always getting squiff-squiddled around."
I'm not holding my brother's opinion against him, but I am wondering if our completely contrasting opinions can both be right? Can this book be both "highly creative" and also "distracting"? Just something to think about. And on which side do you fall?
Mike and my mom and my dad were also not that enamored with the book. My dad thought the giant had no personality (another heart-jab), my mom thought it was a bit strange (but then, she's been prejudiced against Roald Dahl for years), and Mike thought it was too juvenile (see? I knew he should have never gone for a doctorate). Oh, well.
Just for fun, here are a few more of my favorite parts:
- The BFG's dream catalog; I loved reading all of his little summaries of the dreams contained in the bottles ("I is inventing a car that runs on toothpaste." "I is only an eight year old little boy but I is growing a splendid bushy beard and all the other boys is jalous.") These dreams were exactly the kind of random conglomeration my kids would love. It made me wish the BFG could come to our house and blow a few of them into my little Maxwell's room--he is so scared of bad dreams but loves it when he gets a good one.
- Concocting the queen's dream; this scene was very vivid for me. I could see the giant rummaging among his jars, muttering and mumbling to himself, and pouring a little of this dream and a little of that dream in to make the perfect nightmare for the queen. Really, it seemed like a work of art.
- Meeting the Queen; one of my very favorite lines occurred when the BFG approached the queen and introduced himself, "Your Majester, I is your humbug servant." It just made me laugh but at the same time almost want to cry. By that time, I felt like I knew the BFG pretty well (despite my dad saying he had no personality), and I could just see that he was trying to make a good impression while being noble and kind, but once again, his words just got a little mixed up (in a rather adorable way).
If you are looking for a fun activity to add to your family reunion agenda, a book discussion might be just the thing. However, based on this experience, it's probably best to choose a book that no one is emotionally attached to.
My crazy family