Another children’s book, #132 is the story of a boy and his father and a great caper. The main character is Danny and The Champion of the World is the title his father gives him when he has a brilliant idea which they then put to the test.
Quentin Blake did the illustrations for Danny and, as I mentioned when I reviewed Matilda, his beautiful drawings add an extra layer to the story and help the reader picture each scene as they go along.
A criminal mind
The caper involves a crime – but one which is fairly rare and archaic, at least in the UK, so not one the reader is likely to have been a victim of. The crime is accepted and practised by most of the secondary characters in the book, including the local policeman, and the victim is an unpleasant character, all of which frames the criminal activity and makes it seem very light hearted and a positive act of benefit to the community.
It’s interesting, not because it’s unusual – action heroes, even in kids’ books, steal stuff and kill people all the time – but because the characters talk about it being illegal and because it’s a real-world scenario. Danny and his father aren’t spies on the run from a shadowy foreign government – they’re a fairly ordinary family and they have no special powers. And yet, between going to school and going to work, Dahl sends them out to commit a crime, and the audience cheers them on.
The moral lesson – if one can be drawn – is probably the same as in most of Dahl’s books: revenge is best served dramatically.
Introducing the BFG
Early on, Danny’s father tells him the story of where dreams come from – and he describes the Big Friendly Giant who is one of Dahl’s best-known and best-loved (#56 on the Big Read list) characters. Danny was published in 1975 but readers didn’t find out the rest of the BFG’s story until 1982. The description matches so well – it’s interesting to see that this odd, lovely idea was already well formed in Dahls’ head years before The BFG was published.