Friday, December 21, 2012

George's Marvelous Medicine

We just finished another one of Roald Dahl's lesser known books, George's Marvelous Medicine.  This reminded me of Animal Farm, because it is an allegory about family relationships, getting what you want, and what can happen to "mean" people.  The girls did not get any of the bigger messages, but they loved the story, which was ridiculous.
This entire book occurs on a Saturday morning.  Eight year old George is left home with his grandmother, who is mean and grumpy.  Dahl's descriptions of the grandmother are very nasty.  We would never use the terms he uses to describe another person.  But, the "villain" of the story does need to be bad.  She treats George pretty badly, calling him names and openly criticizing him. 

George's mother told him to give his grandmother her medicine at eleven a.m.  But, he gets so mad at her that he decides to make his own "medicine" to give to her.  He runs around his house and pours a bunch of random powders, creams, lotions, etc. into a big pot, which he boils in the kitchen.  This part kind of scared me, because I could only imagine my kids attempting to copy this activity.  We had a lot of discussions about what a "poison" is and that we can never "make a medicine."

In any event, George gives his grandmother the medicine and miraculous, if not hysterical, things occur.  The girls loved this portion of the book.  George (who lives on a farm) then gives the medicine to a hen.  Again, miraculous and hysterical results occur. 

George's parents return home.  His mother is horrified.  His father loves the results and gives the medicine to all the animals on the farm.  Then the father decides to have George create more medicine.  Of course George has no idea how he made the original medicine, so he has to guess what he put into the initial concoction.

Of course Medicine #2 is different than the first one created, so the results are different.  Yet, the results are hysterical and the girls loved it.  Medicine #3 and Medicine #4 also create funny results.

Dahl often has some "mean" characters in his books.  The grandmother in this book is certainly mean, and, as a result, gets her due.  In James and the Giant Peach, James is mistreated by his horrible aunts, who end up being squished by the peach.  In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, all of the children besides Charlie are bratty, with indulgent obnoxious parents, suffer some silly, yet harmful, fate. 

This theme of mean characters suffering fantastical "violence" is common in Dahl's books.  Last week a man walked into an elementary school and killed twenty children and six adults in less than ten minutes.  I cry every time I think about that event.  I have been fortunate that I have been able to shield my children from news of those horrific events. 

I wonder if Dahl's books minimize violence by making it "funny."  There is nothing realistic about these books.  Many times there are magical powers which cause the "violent" results.  The main characters, generally the children, in these books are good and do not intend harm.  George makes his potion in an attempt to make his grandmother feel better.  The results are as much of a surprise to him as they are to everyone else.

I recommend this book for the fun plot.  Like all of his other books, it moves quickly and contains a lot of action.  If your children are savvy enough, you can discuss the character development and some overall moral lessons. 

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