Children's Book of the Week: Danny the Champion of the World

Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

My friend Steve recommended this book, and frankly, we were skeptical. We’d read other Roald Dahl books and had mixed reviews. I love much of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (especially the massive anti-TV screed after Mike Teevee meets his end) but I could have done without the dated and racist description of the Oompa Loompas. I love Quentin Blake’s illustrations but think that shorter fiction like The Enormous Crocodile and The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me is sort of rambling (and, in the case of the latter, completely without conflict, which just makes it boring). Henry does like a lot of Dahl’s writing, though, so we decided to give Danny the Champion of the World a try. One thing I love about it is that it’s much more realistic than his other writings, so rather than just wrap up a story with magic, it seemed to be better constructed overall. We found parts to be laugh-out-loud funny, and most of it was so exciting that the boys couldn’t lie down when Dave was reading it to them – they had to sit upright and practically lie on Dave to get as much of the pictures as they could. There is a whole vein in the book about living life fully (at least, that’s how Dave and I interpreted it) that I appreciated. I see on Amazon.com that some people objected to the fact that the book largely focuses on the joys of stealing, and I’m usually one who is very moralistic when it comes to wrongs joyously laid out in children’s books, but it really didn’t bother me in this instance because the stealing in question was so absurd and fanciful and, well, creative. I loved the whole thing. The day after we finished it, Henry ran up to some random kids and started essentially giving them a book talk about it, excitedly talking about why it was so great.

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