'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 23 May 2011

Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / The BFG

My name is Adam Wallace, and I am a children’s author. My claim to shame is this … until recently I had never read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The BFG.


I have always been a massive fan of Roald Dahl. I grew up on The Twits. But I had never read two of his most well-known and renowned children’s books.

And so it was that a couple of weeks ago I sat down for a couple of mighty reading sessions and I knocked off both books.

First, to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A feature of Roald Dahl’s stories is the down-and-outer making good, or awful people being brought back to earth with a thud. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has both.

I won’t go into details about the story, as I’m sure you all know it. But I think it is brilliant how Roald Dahl has created a world so fantastic and wonderful that somehow you believe it could be true. The things he comes up with! Eatable Marshmallow Pillows. Hot ice-Creams for Cold days. Wriggle sweets that wriggle delightfully in your tummy after swallowing. Invisible chocolate bars for eating in class.

The brilliance of Roald Dahl is the way he gets his message across without bogging down the story. The demise of the awful children in the story does this beautifully, and it is capped off by the Oompa Loompas and their songs. My favourite is the Mike Teavee song, about watching too much television. While Dahl doesn’t seem a fan of balance (throw all televisions away and just read books!), it is an amazing piece of rhyme, one that had me reading it to anyone who would listen.

Title: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Author: Roald Dahl
Publisher: Puffin, $16.95 RRP
Publication Date: 2010
Format: Softcover
ISBN: 9780141329857
For ages: 6+
Type: Junior Fiction

The magic continued in The BFG, a story of two outcasts who work together to stop awful giants eating human beans every night. Sophie is an orphan, and the BFG the smallest of the giants. The BFG is an amazing character, mixing his words up (like redunculous, and Dahl’s Chickens (author of Nicholas Nickleby)) but getting his message across due to his actions and his amazing heart.

The BFG spends his nights blowing dreams into the bedrooms of children, but he is tormented by the other giants because he won’t eat humans. Sophie, of course, is horrified to hear that giants eat humans, especially children, and it is here that there is a brilliant exchange between the two.

‘Even so,’ she said (she being Sophie), defending her own race, ‘I think it’s rotten that those foul giants should go off every night to kill humans. Humans have never done them any harm.’

‘That is what the little piggy-wig is saying every day,’ the BFG answered. ‘He is saying, “I has never done any harm to the human bean so why should he be eating me?”’

‘Oh dear,’ Sophie said.

‘The human beans is making rules to suit themselves,’ the BFG went on. ‘But the rules they is making do not suit the little piggy-wiggies. Am I right or left?’

‘Right,’ Sophie said.

‘Giants is also making rules. Their rules is not suiting the human beans. Everybody is making his own rules to suit himself.’

‘But you don’t like it that those beastly giants are eating humans every night, do you?’ Sophie asked.

‘I do not,’ the BFG answered firmly. ‘One right is not making two lefts …’

That is the joy of both of these books. Wonderful characters and strong messages all housed in fun and laughter and joy. Serious exchanges like the one above (lightened by the BFG’s beautiful way of speaking) are followed by hilarious moments like drinking frobscottle (a fizzy drink where the bubbles fizz down) and letting rip with whizpoppers (massive farts that lift the BFG off his feet).

Both of these books were an absolute delight, and my only disappointment is that it took me thirty something years to get around to reading them!

Title: The BFG
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Quentin Blake
Publisher: Puffin, $14.95 RRP
Publication Date: 2007
Format: Softcover
ISBN: 9780141322629
For ages: 6+
Type: Junior Fiction

Learn more about Adam's wonderful books at www.adam-wallace-books.com