Danny the Champion of the World
Roald Dahl ~ Jill Bennett ~ Alfred A. Knopf, 1975
I'm going to lay it on heavy for this one, and call it one of the best books I have ever read.
Adult or for children.
I know that's a tall order, and if I waver a bit in that description I can at least say, for sure, that it's my favorite Roald Dahl, ever.
Lacking the fantastical angle of his other books for kids, this story reads how a good book should. It's perfect. The simple tale of a man and his son and one fantastic hobby.
The book has been reillustrated several times (most recently, of course, by Mr. Blake), but the original pen and ink drawings by Ms. Bennett really stand out as particularly whimsical. I don't know why the first image was (and still is) a photograph of a baby instead of a drawing, but how cool is that!?!. Does anyone know if it's, in fact, a picture of Dahl or one of his children?
I had no brothers or sisters.
So all through my boyhood, from the age of four months onward, there was just us two, my father and me.
We lived in an old gypsy caravan behind a filling station. My father owned the filling station and the caravan and the small meadow behind, but that was about all he owned in the world. It was a very small filling station on a small country road surrounded by fields and woody hills.
While I was still a baby, my father washed me and fed me and changed my diapers and did all the millions of other things a mother normally does for a child. That is not an easy task for a man, especially when he has to earn his living at the same time by repairing automobile engines and serving customers gasoline.
But my father didn't seem to mind. I think all the love he had felt for my mother when she was alive he now lavished upon me.
I don't wanna give too much of the story away as it's marvelous, but know there are good guys and bad guys and illegal goings ons and little guys defeating big guys and pheasants.
Lots and lots of pheasants.
Not only is it a fascinating - mysterious - scary - loving read, but one of Dahl's most famous characters, The BFG, first appears here as a story the father tells. Dahl later went on to give the big friendly giant his own book, but it's here that the importance of oral story-telling is really felt.
My only regret is that I read this book to my son. I wish my husband had read it to him because when you cry at the end (and believe me, you will), it really is the father/son connection that is being celebrated. A breathtaking sentiment, indeed.
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Magic Finger
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