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Dickens and Dahl

Posted Thursday, March 17, 2011, at 12:25 PM

My children get on a kick with certain favorite authors. Lucky for me, the authors they can't get enough of lately are Roald Dahl and Charles Dickens. D was the next letter to knock off my alphabetical author goal this year, so it's just really convenient that our nightly reading coincides with that goal. It's so convenient; I can't even claim to be multi-tasking. It feels like cheating.

Since December, the Roald Dahl books we have read are "The Witches," "The Twits," "James and the Giant Peach," and "The BFG." Isaac is also reading "Fantastic Mr. Fox" on his own, and he just spent three weeks of his allowance buying "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More." Yes, I love that my six year-old spends all of his allowance on books. He takes after his mom.

My favorite of the Roald Dahl books we've read so far is "The Witches." It is absolutely the most fun read-aloud book there is. Dahl writes the accent of the Grand High Witch with rolled r's and v's for w's. I got so carried away in the voice of the Grand High Witch at one point, Malcolm tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Mom, that kind of hurts my ears." Ah, gee. And I thought Mom was on a roll!

The most recent book we finished is "The BFG." This is a Roald Dahl book that few people have heard of. After all, it hasn't been made into a movie, like "Matilda," "The Witches," "James and the Giant Peach," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and "Fantastic Mr. Fox." That's really too bad, as "The BFG" is another fun book to read aloud. BFG stands for Big Friendly Giant. From her window in an orphanage, a little girl named Sophie spots the BFG walking in the streets of London. He can't risk her telling other humans, so he takes her to his home. He's friendly, but the other giants eat people. BFG must hide Sophie from the other giants. BFG often gets his words confused, so Sophie corrects him. His mixed up phrases and made-up words are a hoot, and of course, there's some flatulence humor that is always a big hit with six to eight year-old boys. I give this book an A.

For the Dickens part of this blog, the boys wanted to read "A Christmas Carol" after Steven and Isaac had been in the play last December. There are a number of versions for kids, but they really wanted to read the original. I'm usually impatient with classics when I read them to myself, but the boys were a shockingly captive audience. If I hadn't been reading it out load to them, I probably would have put it down after 10 pages. Dickens' prose has some tongue-twisting descriptiveness that made reading aloud a challenge at times, but it also kept me awake. Overall, the story had a near hypnotic effect on the kids, though they perked up when they heard dialogue they remembered from the play. I give "A Christmas Carol" an A, because it's a timeless classic, and I'm glad I can finally say I've finished a Charles Dickens book--even if it's more of a novella than a novel.

I thought that was the end of my Dickens days, but I was wrong. One of my husband's patients knows how the boys love to read, so she loaned them a few Great Illustrated Classics of Charles Dickens that have been adapted for younger readers. Isaac chose "Great Expectations," adapted by Mitsu Yamamoto. Malcolm chose "A Christmas Carol," adapted by Malvina G. Vogel. So we get to read "A Christmas Carol." Again. But at least this time, it's with pictures.

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Actually there is a "BFG" movie, it is an animated film from the UK in 1989. If you can get a copy for your kids, I'm sure they'll love it, particularly the Whizzpop song.

-- Posted by SWNebr Transplant on Fri, Mar 18, 2011, at 4:14 PM

Thanks for the tip, SWNebr! I'll have to look that up.

-- Posted by saveryhinze on Sun, Mar 20, 2011, at 12:49 PM

I had to read several Dickens novels in college as a requirement to go on a summer study tour of Victorian authors. It was worth the time. He may have been wordy to get paid more at the time. However after going on the tour and seeing the places the various authors described, it made the stories seem much more real. Granted the places weren't exactly the same but I was able to get the actual sense of place that the authors were trying to describe. It was pretty cool.


-- Posted by coolidge on Sun, Mar 27, 2011, at 9:59 AM

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Lori Savery-Hinze
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