Sophie, an orphan, finds herself awake during the witching hour and is snatched by a big-eared, dream-catching giant. This monstrous being happens to be one of the only giants in all of Giant Country who does not eat “human beans,” which is why he is known as the Big Friendly Giant or BFG, for short. The BFG is the master of creating dream stories, and his tales of mean giants inspire Sophie to take action. She devises a plan involving a realistic nightmare and the Queen in order to save the world from this gaggle of man-eating giants.
For third to sixth graders, The BFG is magical and imaginative. Growing up, this was one of my favorite books. As an adult, I have a few more concerns: The references to families in Baghdad having ten children or how the Sultan recently had to chop off heads is racist rather than wordplay. The giants do not eat people from Greece because they are greasy, sigh, and people from Jersey taste like jerseys, which seems more like benign humor. The play on words and nonsensical language may also confuse younger children. With no formal schooling, the BFG is portrayed as ignorant and at times, simple-minded and barbarian-like. Dahl stigmatizes people who look different and have little education. What message does this send to younger children? I wish I could return to the innocence of childhood where I took The BFG at face value, loving its engaging plot with mildly crude humor and happy ending. As an adult, I cringe and want to grab some whiteout.
The BFG by Roald Dahl with illustrations by Quentin Blake (Puffin Books, 1982)