Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Review: Danny The Champion of the World

We finished reading Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl last night. I have mixed feelings about the book and thought I'd right a little review here.

We discovered this book after reading The BFG by the same author. Now that was a really fun book to read! Anyway, the kids told their virtual academy teacher about the BFG and she replied that she had first heard of the friendly giant in Danny the Champion of the World. Intrigued because The BFG was such a fun read, we checked Danny the Champion of the World out of our local library.

Now, before I start telling you about Danny the Champion of the World, I need to warn you. I cannot possibly provide an adequate review of my thoughts on this book without providing several spoilers to the story.

Danny the Champion of the World is written from the view point of the main character, Danny, a young boy living in an old gypsy caravan with his father somewhere near the 1960's or 1970's. Together, father and son run a filling station. The book begins with Danny telling the reader that he had "the most marvelous and exciting father any boy ever had." The rest of the book explains, through the telling of how he discovered his father secret vice, just why his father is the best.

It's the handling of Danny's father's vice that bothered me. Danny's father is a poacher of pheasants. In the book, poaching is shown to be a fun, exciting, and acceptable activity. The villain of the story is the owner of the pheasants. He is described as a rich, greedy, mean man who deserves to have his pheasants poached. While I wasn't entirely thrilled to find myself reading a book that glorifies an illegal and dangerous activity, it got worse as I read further.

As the story continues, we soon learn that all of the town's most respectable men are also, in some way or another, involved in poaching as well. This includes the town's police officer, doctor, and reverend. The reverend's wife is even involved. The treatment of poaching and these characters is not done to show that everyone has some kind of vice, or sin, in their lives. That might be acceptable. Rather you get the sense that poaching is looked upon as something everyone does and that the pheasants' owner deserves to have his birds stolen.

The book goes so far as to raise poachers to hero status. Actually, it does since the entire book uses poaching to show how Danny's father is the best father a boy could have. In addition to that, Danny is seen as the champion of the world when he comes up with the best poaching success ever seen.

In a literary sense, it the book isn't all that well-written either. At a time when I am trying to teach my daughter to use active verbs and to use a variety of verbs, I got tired of Dahl's repetitive use of I said and he said in his dialogues. I wanted to scream, "Can't he whisper, yell, scream, laugh, snort, exclaim, remark, question, mumble, lecture, advise, whine, or even yodel!"

Should you let your kids read this book? Well, that's entirely up to you. Perhaps, it could be a spring board for discussing how even good people have sin in their lives. Perhaps, you could just let it be an interesting. I can tell you that both my children enjoyed the story and I wasn't bored reading it. It was interesting but doesn't even come close to making it to the favorites list.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

**Disclosure: This review was provided of my own free will. I did not receive anything from the publisher, author, or anyone else for the review. I'm just sharing my feelings, opinions, and experiences that are part of our homeschooling experience.

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Anonymous said...

I am always leery of books that do not discuss the consequences of doing wrong. Thank you for the review.

tufty said...

its one of my favourite books ever. i don't think he wrote it to be analysed through adult eyes. I've yet to meet anyone who decided to be a poacher because of this book.
It deserves to be be read as the joy that it is, not as a teaching tool.

Unknown said...

Well said