Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dahl Delirium!!!!

Primo has been on a huge Dahl jag lately, which frankly, could not please me more. In fact, I admit to enabling his addiction. I never read Roald Dahl as a kid, but now I’m making up for lost time. We’ve read about 2/3 of the canon are now down to the ones that are too old for Primo, like Matilda and The Witches. My all-time favorite was James and the Giant Peach which I found to be the all-time best children’s chapter book ever. Ev-ah. I defy you to challenge me. Coming in second was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Third goes to George’s Marvelous Medicine, which I’ve never heard of til a good friend of mine recommended it to us. It’s about a little boy who has a grumpy grunion of a grandma – she says stuff like “Growing is a nasty childish habit!” – and George tries to make a potion out of stuff he finds under the kitchen sink and in the garage to “cure” her. Results are, of course, totally unexpected. I think it was Primo’s favorite Dahl, actually.

Our most recent Dahl was The BFG, also recommended by my Dahl-loving friend who remembers reading it when she was knee-high to a grasshopper. The BFG easily ties with George’s Marvelous Medicine for 3rd place, but is much darker and more menacing not to mention three times as long, making it less suitable for young readers. Primo was a bit young for it; in fact, I admit to having changed some of the mean giants’ names (sorry Roald, but a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do). Primo has enough trouble going to sleep without visions of the “Bonecruncher” and “Fleshlumper” and the “Bloodbottler” dancing in his head.

The story’s about a big, friendly (and not very well-educated) giant that “kidsnatches” a little orphan girl one night when she catches sight of him. He turns out to be a vegetarian and not a “cannibully” but the other brutes that live in Giant country, who he despises, do eat human beans, lots of them, so the BFG and Sophie have two problems. A. How to keep her hidden and alive and B. How to stop the giants from guzzling dozens of little children every night?

The reason I bring up the BFG is that I’d like to recommend not only that you read it to your child, but that you read the voice of the BFG exactly, and I do mean precisely, as though he were Rocky Balboa. I think you’ll find, as I did, it is wildly pleasurable, and you’ll want to keep reading for hours on end. Here are some excerpts so you can give it a try:

“You is welcome to go and search my cave from frack to bunt . . . You can go looking into every crook and nanny. There is no human beans or stringy beans or runner beans or jelly beans or any other beans in there.”

“Every human bean is diddly and different. Some is scrumdiddlyumptious and some is uckyslush.”

I’m telling you, we flew through this book because I couldn’t stop reading once I hooked into the Rocky Balboa thing.

Oh, and there’s one more Dahl book I want to suggest: Revolting Rhymes. They are Dahl’s retellings of classic fairytales, and everything about the stories are, true to the title, revolting. That said, it’s not for everyone. Its pretty risqué. Pre-read first or you may end up sending me scathing emails. But if you’re getting really sick of the princess thing, this will inject a thrill into your bedtime reading because it is absolutely irreverent. Here’s a taste from the Wolf’s POV in Little Red Riding Hood:

He sat there watching her and smiled.

He thought, I’m going to eat this child.

Compared with her old Grandmamma

She’s going to taste like caviar.

“Ah well, no matter what you say

I’m going to eat you anyway.”

The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.

She pulls a pistol from her knickers.

She aims it at the creature’s head

And bang, bang, bang, she shoots him dead.

I mean, grrrrl power or what?

But that’s perfectly tame compared to his Cinderella, which is completely R rated. He has the Ugly Stepsister cook up a trick to make her foot fit into the slipper, locking the Prince into marriage, and sending him on a serial killer spiral:

He muttered, 'Let me out of here,'

'Oh no you don't! You made a vow!

There's no way you can back out now!'

'Off with her head!' The Prince roared back.

They chopped it off with one big whack.

This please the Prince. He smiled and said,

'She's priettier without her head.'

He chops off the other stepsister’s head and by the time Cinderella comes out, he’s done gone crazy:

Poor Cindy's heart was torn to shreds

My Prince! she thought. He chops off heads!

How could I marry anyone

Who does that sort of thing for fun?

The Prince cried, 'Who's this dirty slut?'

'Off with her nut! Off with her nut!'

Yes, you read it right, The Prince calls Cinderella a "dirty slut." You'd have to bleep that out. In fact, I don't recommend reading the story to your kids at all. But its a jolly good laugh for grownups.

And I hope that the next time you’re watching Disney’s honey-haired mouse-loving rags-to-riches princess, the words “dirty slut” pop up in your mind, and you just can’t get ‘em our of your head. I think that would be a hoot.