Pssst, you there. Yes, you. Thanks for travelling to my corner of the internet, I hope it's cozy enough and that you enjoy your stay :)
I'm reading James And The Giant Peach right now. I'm at page 37 and it just reached the part where things get really interesting in the book. I'm French, so I might have read fewer Roald Dahl's stories for school that I would if I had lived, dunno, in the United Kingdom, let's say. I remember reading The BFG and The Twits in primary school, but it's a bit fuzzy.
On the illustrations, though. I wanted to write a separate piece for them, because there's room for thought, in my opinion. To be quite honest, I feel like they're more of an acquired taste. When I was ten and my teacher made us read The BFG, I thought they were ugly.
I'm half-pleased to notice I'm still the same person : Thirteen years later, my first thought upon picking up the book and leafing through the first chapters was that the illustrations are ugly. I'd like to point out that I don't say that with satisfaction : I'm an art history student. I enjoy being happy looking at stuff more than I do poking fun at it (most of the time).
I'm still convinced they're not the best pictures to introduce a kid to the books. He's going to remember the story and associate it with the pictures, because that's what a kid's brain does. It's easier for memorization. I might not have felt so ambiguous toward The BFG now if I hadn't stared at the weird smiling giant of the illustrations back then. He creeps me out.
I wouldn't pay so much attention to it, but they're everywhere. Either you get used to them or you're in for an uncomfortable read. Yet again, maybe it's just me. I wouldn't say they don't fit the story, nevertheless. I think they do. I'm just not convinced they're the best storytelling material for children.
Then, there's also the fact that the illustrations don't fit with the way I picture the characters, which by the way is a vague version of their design in the animated movie : I liked it a lot when I was a child and I guess it just stuck with me.
I didn't associate this movie with the two stories I wasn't quite sure how I liked in primary school, even though there couldn't be a very wide time span between the moments I was introduced to both books and movie. It just couldn't be the same thing for me, one was awesome and good-weird, the others made me feel...conflicted, and bad-weird.
I'm guessing maybe it's part of the reason the role of the illustrations in a book is a side I want to point out : it's going to make a lasting impression. I can't help but think this kind of stuff influences what sort of stories one is going to like as an adult. It's going to stick with your personality and imprint here. I'm not saying I can like Roald Dahl's stories only because of the memory I keep of the movie, for example. What I mean is, I'm not sure I would have felt the urge to pick up James And The Giant Peach the other day if I hadn't remembered how I used to love the movie as a child, if Quentin Blake's were the only visual references I had of Roald Dahl's work, the only shortcuts, if you like. I don't think so.
If you have some thoughts on visuals of any story that stuck with you for a reason and you want to talk about it in a comment, I'd like reading about them. Are they good, bad memories for you ? Is there one in particular ? Do you think they're important ?