Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rereading Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

Danny the Champion of the WorldWhen I was four months old, my mother died suddenly and my father was left to look after me all by himself. 

"Can Danny and his father outsmart the villainous Mr. Hazell? Danny has a life any boy would love—his home is a gypsy caravan, he's the youngest master car mechanic around, and his best friend is his dad, who never runs out of wonderful stories to tell. But one night Danny discovers a shocking secret that his father has kept hidden for years. Soon Danny finds himself the mastermind behind the most incredible plot ever attempted against nasty Victor Hazell, a wealthy landowner with a bad attitude. Can they pull it off? If so, Danny will truly be the champion of the world."

Danny the Champion of the World is certainly not one of Roald Dahl's most famous novels, and that's because it's not one of his best, but it is a fun read and does display Dahl's signature humor and quirkiness. It's not quite as grotesque as some of his other stories, but still pretty twisted in terms of how the villain of the story is characterized and what happens to him.

Even though I haven't read the book in a while, I still remembered the story really well; that always happens with Roald Dahl's children's books for me. Even if it's been several years, the plot is still fresh in my mind. I think this is the third time I've read Danny the Champion of the World though.  The plot is really weird, and certainly not as funny and entertaining as Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dahl's most famous works (a.k.a the ones adapted into well-known movies). 

You might say that this one is more powerful than the other of his books simply because it's less zany. You think more, rather than just being caught up in the weird twist and turns of a fantastical story. Danny has its improbable moments, but it's really a lot more realistic than Dahl's other children's books, most of which are downright fantasy. There are some pretty interesting quotes too. For example: "I was glad my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave me a fake smile because it's impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren't feeling twinkly yourself. A mouth-smile is different. You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips. I've also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it. So watch out, I say, when someone smiles at you but his eyes stay the same. It's sure to be a phony." Also, "A stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is SPARKY." Those were quite funny; Danny definitely has an amazing father. In the beginning of the book, before the action really occurs, Danny's father makes kites, fire balloons, bow and arrows, a tree-house, and special car-like thing for his son. To top it all off, he lives in a very small but amazing old gypsy caravan whose traveling days are over. A rather romanticized existence perhaps, but it still sounds pretty fun. 

There are some rather dubious morals in this book. After all, Danny's father is a poacher, and that's a thief. But it's the relationship between them that's so lovely to read about. And besides, in this case Mr. Hazell deserves to have his pheasants poached. He certainly needs to be taught a lesson, and what better way to do that than steal all of the birds in his wood before the shooting party? 

Danny is certainly not one of my favorite Roald Dahl novels, but I enjoyed rereading it, especially since I was in need of quick read. Roald Dahl's children's books are good for an afternoon of entertainment and humor. 

206 pages. 

Rating: **** 

1 comment:

  1. Hmm... I don't really consider Dahl's books to be grotesque. He is very dark and real compared to other children's authors that's for sure. I don't know how he was able to get away with it but I'm glad he has. This one sounds more real than the others. (I think Matilda is pretty real just with a touch of magic. It's his style.) I've never heard of it but I might as well give it a try. It sounds really good. I don't think Dahl's morals in his stories are ever very clear cut good... Nice review (: