One of the reasons why Roald Dahl’s books have remained so popular over the years, is because he treats the children in his stories the way kids want to be treated. And he does the same thing to his readers. I first discovered Danny, The Champion of the World as a 9 year old 4th grader, and it was the first book I ever read where I felt a complete connection with the author and the characters. Roald Dahl’s messages to kids are simple, yet profound: You matter. You’re important. Your ideas are worth sharing. There is validity in what you contribute to the world, and it doesn’t matter that you’re a kid.
Most of Roald Dahl’s books center around a child in a peculiar circumstance that has an adult ally and plenty of obstacles to overcome. In Danny, our young protagonist lives with his father in a gypsy caravan in a small English village where they maintain the local filling station and garage. Danny goes to school and endures the daily tyranny of his teacher, Captain Lancaster. When at home, he and his father work on cars together and lead a simple, but fulfilling life. The bond between these two is extremely close. Danny absolutely worships his dad, who tells him fantastic tales every night before bed.
But one evening, Danny’s father nearly falls from his pedestal when he reveals a secret to his son about a late-night hobby– poaching (stealing) pheasants off the land of a wealthy landowner. Danny must come to terms with this news and decide how to deal with it.
What follows is a father/son adventure of the wildest sort, which involves local villagers, the constable, and even the preacher’s wife!
There are fun, fantastic stories, and there is excellent storytelling. Danny has both. One minute you are whisked away in a high-flying balloon and the next you are crawling along in the dark with Danny and his dad on a midnight mission. Few authors, of children’s or adult books, can bring language to life the Roald Dahl can, and this book is one of his treasures. It isn’t his most well-known, (most know Dahl as the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach,) but I think it is his best. I have read it to many of my elementary school classes over the years and it never ceases to mesmerize.