While most famous for his work on creating Agent 007, Ian Fleming wrote this classic children’s story many years ago, which entertains as much as it captures the interest of many young readers. Commander Caractacus Pott has a long history of inventing things, which provides limited success and forces the family to gather round in times of financial strain. After selling one of his ideas to a local confectionary, the Potts head out to purchase their first family car. Commander Pott brings his wife (Mimsie) and twins (Jeremy and Jemima) along to find a vehicle that might suit them. One that has been left to the side catches their attention and soon the Potts have a vehicle of their own. This vehicle appears somewhat standard in appearance but seems to have a personality all its own, down to its name, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The Pott Family find themselves out exploring the rural English countryside one day when things take a slight detour and Chitty begins showing off her wonderful capabilities (as many will know, cars prefer to be ‘she’ and Fleming discusses this). Departing the confines of England, Chitty takes the Commander and his brood on a continental exploration, which goes from exciting to problematic in the blink of an eye. Jemima and Jeremy are soon placed in danger and no one can help them, though Chitty might have seen in all, if only she can get the Commander and Mimsie to heed her alerts. A wonderful story that will keep the young reader hooked until the very last pages.
I will admit that I had heard of this book (and movie) a long time ago, but it is only now, when asked to do a quick buddy read, that I decided to go all in. Fleming takes this outrageous idea and puts a nice spin on it, perfect for young readers. While there is much that can be said of Commander Pott, the story is rightly all about this unique vehicle, though the other characters found herein keep things light and adventurous. Fleming teases readers with what might be around the corner, beginning with talk of a magical sweet, but soon pushes the story well away from inventions and into the fast-paced world of travels and trouble. In a fashion that I have only seen in English children’s books, the narrator keeps the reader fully involved and helps push speculation to its limits, while also making sure that no one is left behind. The twists and turns of this tale are wonderfully paced and the reader is sure to want more. As do I, admittedly. So, I’ll rush out to read the next three in the series, though it is too bad that Fleming never got around to writing those, too busy keeping the rest of the world safe with James Bond.
Kudos, Mr. Fleming for your wonderful beginning to a series of children’s novels sure to bamboozle as much as they excite the young reader. I feel like a kid again as I devoured this wonderful story.