Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl

Nine stars 

Dahl continues with his wonderful children’s stories, telling one that has a realistic flavour to it, sure to appeal to the masses. After the death of his mother as an infant, Danny is left to live with his father. Together, they forge a bond so close that no one can come between them. Living in a small caravan out back of the service station he owns, William raises Danny the best he can. One night, Danny wakes to find his father is not in the upper bunk bed and panics, but soon locates him strolling up the pathway. After intense questioning, Danny learns that his father has been out poaching pheasants, something that many of the poorer men have been known to do on the large estate of a pompous owner. Danny is enamoured at the possibility that they can do this together, but is cautioned against it, as it is a highly dangerous and illegal affair. When Danny cannot find his father a second time, he goes out looking, only to discover that things are tied up in proverbial knots. Sharing an idea for the pheasant catching, Danny finds a way to get in on the act. What follows is a treacherous scheme that could fail at any moment, or reap rewards for many. Perhaps my favourite story to date in this re-reading adventure, Dahl dazzles and impresses at the same time.

I vaguely remember my father reading me this story when I was young, which helped fuel my desire to try it again for myself. The ease with which the story flows is surely one of its greatest assets, alongside some great characters and a plot that is as believable as it is relatable to at least some children. Able to convey a wonderful story in short order, Dahl continues to show how he earned the title of masterful children’s author of the 20th century. With a peppering mention of some other stories in his quiver (BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Dahl bridges a connection for his young readers, with just a touch of self-promotion. Short chapters foster a great adult-child joint experience and one can only hope that readers for decades to come will continue to be dazzled by the work Dahl made popular in my own youth. Rest assured, I will soon bring these stories out for my own son.

Kudos, Mr. Dahl for continuing to impress with your fluid prose. I love that warm feeling your books always impart.