THE BFG

Dahl's elemental fix on kids' consciousness gets this off to a surefire shivery start, with orphan Sophie, awake st the witching hour, snatched from her bed by a giant hand and carried off to a land of giants clear off the last page of the atlas. But Sophie's kidnapper is really friendly (hence BFG for Big Friendly Giant) and does not eat humans as she had feared, but occupies himself gathering and dispensing dreams. He also expresses himself in a mixed-up, cutesy manner that is simply tiresome. Nearby, however, are nine still-bigger giants who do eat humans ("I is a nice and jumbly giant" but "human beans is like strawbunkles and cream to those giants," says the BFG)—and it's to protect the world from them that Sophie and the BFG hatch a scheme: He will mix a dream from his collection and send it to the Queen of England to apprise her of the threat; then, when she awakens, Sophie will be on her windowsill, and the BFG waiting in the garden, to convince her that the dream is true. And so it is that we find Sophie and the BFG breakfasting with Her Majesty . . . and the BFG violating all decorum, even to letting fly a glumptious whizzpopper (kids would call it a fart). Nevertheless the Queen is impressed and sends off her military men, who, under the BFG's direction, rope the sleeping giants and haul them back by helicopter to be imprisoned in a giant pit. This is all told in Dahl's higgledy-piggledy home-made manner, which is rarely disarming here despite the pandering. And it's hard to find the bumble-tongued BFG endearing.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1982

ISBN: 0374304696

Page Count: 219

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1982

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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