Thursday, December 3, 2009

Danny the Champion of the World

Still on our Roald Dahl kick, I picked up Danny the Champion of the World.  I'd never even heard of it, but thought it couldn't hurt to give it a try!

The Story:  Danny lives alone with his dad in a caravan behind the gas station an auto repair shop his father owns.  His mother died when he was a baby.  Danny's father takes him under his wing and teaches him everything he knows about auto repair, and eventually about his other love - pheasant poaching.  Together, they plan the biggest poaching expedition ever, and have some wonderful bonding moments along the way.

The Good:  The relationship between Danny and his dad is amazing.  It's real and touching.  Though they are poaching, they are poaching from a really vile man.  Danny is a likable character.  He isn't as insanely over-the-top as other Dahl children, like Matilda, but instead, he seems like a real boy.  It's kind of nice.

The Bad:  Well, they are poaching.  This prompted discussions with Evalina about how poaching is stealing, and stealing is never ok, and she seemed to understand that.  There was one moment when one of Danny's teachers was really mean to him for no real reason (he caned Danny's palm) and Evalina declared that she was near tears because she was so sad and mad at the same time - and coined the term "smad" to describe her feelings.  It is always upsetting when a teacher is cruel.  I don't know if that's particularly bad, but it is something to be aware of.  Danny (at I think 9 years old) drives a car to rescue his father in the middle of the night, when he hasn't returned from a poaching expedition.  It turns out that his father fell in a pit and broke his ankle, and Danny has to help him out and drive back home again.  This also prompted a discussion with Evalina about how she isn't allowed to drive until she is at least 15.  Evalina also announced "Maybe I can be a poacher when I'm older!" and I had to shoot down that idea, once and for all....

The Verdict:  It's a pretty good book, but more dense than other Dahls.  It's over 200 pages long, and they are not quick pages, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  The story is also written in first person, from Danny's point of view, and that is different from the narrative style of the other Dahls we've read so far.  Amazon recommends this book for ages 9-12, and I'd say that's fair.  While Evalina does understand what's going on in the book, it might be one that she would get significantly more out of in a couple of years.  I really love how close Danny and his father are, but it sure would be nice if they were bonding over something a little less illegal.