It’s raining today and I’m not working, so after I finished Road From Al Ramadi, I charged through Danny the Champion of the World as well. I picked this book up at the bookstore’s sale, because I believe that having a complete collection of Roald Dahl is very important, and for some reason my copy had vanished into the ether.
This may be my favourite Roald Dahl book. First of all, it reminds me a lot of my relationship with my own father, and it highlights class issues while coming up with clever and silly ways to quietly get back on the upper classes. And I dig that. I like the idea of kids reading this book and being inspired to do something brilliantly revolutionary. I know it certainly inspired me, as a young reader.
For those of you who haven’t read this book, it’s about a boy and his father in a rural village in England, and a great pheasant poaching escapade. The pheasants, of course, are poached from a mean local grandee who drives a fancy motorcar and froths at the mouth when he gets upset, so the poaching is framed as a strike against the evil upper classes as well as a fun lark. Naturally, this being Roald Dahl, the father is a brilliant, silly man who enjoys telling stories, and the two hatch a plan to feed the pheasants sleeping pills on the eve of a big shoot so that they can steal all the pheasants at one swoop. The Quentin Blake illustrations are pretty fabulous as well.
Dahl closes the book with an exhortation to parents, telling them that stodgy parents are no fun at all, and this is something I definitely agree with. Danny and his father have a relationship which I think is pretty excellent, behaving more like friends than anything else, and I think that’s a pretty good way to raise children. This might be, of course, because I was raised that way, and my father and I have a very similar relationship. But as a child, I saw a lot of parallels between my situation and Danny’s, and rather than being jealous of my friends for living in nicer houses than mine, I felt secretly superior because we had a fun, happy house with special quirks. In a way, I think that’s a real gift, to grow up lower class and not really see it as a negative thing (although it might explain some of my reverse classism today), but rather as a positive to be celebrated. That alone is reason enough to put this book into the hands of every child I know, lower class or not.
Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl. Published 1975, 205 pages. Children’s fiction.