Danny Champion of the World
Roald Dahl

"My father, without the slightest doubt, was the most marvellous and exciting father any boy ever had."

Danny is a very lucky boy. He's living in an old gypsy caravan, that hasn't any electricity in it. His father (whom he adores and loves so much) raises him on his own, ever since his mother died when he was only four months old. Danny loves to listen to his stories, that he seems to develop with ease each night. And there are stories to be told, well like the one about the BFG (the Big Friendly Giant), who walks the streets at night and tries to catch children's dreams, bad ones and good ones as well…. He is a content and happy boy feeling safe in his father's great loving care. Seeing it that way, he has more than most kids have. Although they are - well poor - they aren't missing much. Danny believes that his life is full of wealth and beauty. This odd couple is tending their small gas station. Puttering around the workshop Danny learns to start a car, even drive a car. As it turns out it's one thing he'll need to know! One is tempted to draw parallels to a Dickens' setting, but the moral undertone isn't that obvious. It's there but it is very subtle.

Danny's dad has lots of flim-flam on his mind, occasionally taking off to fly home-built gas balloons and kites. Life by and large is peaceful and wonderful... until Danny turns 9 and discovers his father's one vice - poaching. One night he wakes up and finds that his father is gone. Full of panic, Danny runs outside, only to find his father returning from a raid through the woods of much disliked Mr. Hazell. Danny is shocked to learn that his father steals pheasants at night, but he will get to understand that his father has his reasons for his hobby. His dad doesn't like the style of rich Mr. Hazel, because in all his wealth he likes to terrorize his fellow men.

One fine day his father fails to return at the promised time, and Danny starts an encouraged undertaking to find him. As things are, Mr. Hazell's keepers prepared a pit trap for the poachers and Danny's father fell right in one. He is caught with a broken angle, but Danny manages to get his father out. Doc Spencer as Danny is very surprised to hear, is also a keen lover of poaching, although he is over seventy. His comment: "It's a great game. Catch a trout? You tickle him and he dozes off… " While his father recovers, Danny finds himself the mastermind behind the most incredible plot ever attempted against nasty Victor Hazell, the wealthy landowner with a bad attitude.

The adventure of a lifetime

The science of poaching pheasants was "invented" by Danny's grandpa. He made the most important discovery in the history of poaching pheasants: raisins! The best way to poach pheasants are these two: Method one the "Horse hair stopper". This method is absolutely silent which is vital, because the keepers will be there waiting for you to make noise while poaching… Actually the Horse Hair Stopper is a raisin with a tiny piece of horse hair sticking out of both sides. After eating such a thing, the pheasant stands still and you can just pick it up. That's an ingenious trick and any poaching inventor should be proud to have such ideas. Flash of pure brilliance number two: The Sticky Hat…. Well I won't tell you about that one, it is a family secret after all…

Danny is stepping into the really large shoes of his grandpa by inventing a new method. Our father and son couple goes to extremes to sabotage the great hunting party of Mr. Hazell and the way they are doing it is just brilliant. As Danny finds out almost everyone in the village is pro-poaching in one way or the other - the taxi driver, the policeman, even the vicar's wife. All will turn out well in the end and Danny and his father will try to poach trout next time around….

"A message for children who have read this book: When you grow up and have children of your own, do please remember something important: A stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is sparky!"

Yes, well this book really isn't suitable for children under 30, eh? No, actually, it is in the great tradition of Alexander Neill. Everyone who read Dahl's short stories for adults knows that his way of telling a story is more than entertaining. They all have their twists to them and they are not what you would call - eeehhh - sober-minded. Danny is a fine example of his style, but it is tapered to the young audience. What I believe makes this novel a "great" one is the fact that Dahl managed to tell a wonderful children's story and keep the grown-up reader amused as well. Which is mastery at it's best. A decent mother's hair would stay on end - but hey, that's what it's all about, right? This is a daydream for a boy: being with his father who is warm-hearted and having a sense and a longing for adventure that could end in a disaster. Who cares? It's worth it! Nobody is to become the Champion of the World for sitting quietly in school.

Review of Nat's reading
What can I say? This is a very fine and superb interpretation of Dahl's book. Nat did a marvellous job here. Naturally he's doing all characters, mainly Danny who's the narrator of the whole story. Seeing the world of the quirky grown-ups through his eyes is a marvel and Nat's voice let's you feel this sense of wonder. That small boy, going from 8 to 9 (where everything changes and Danny is invited into the strange world of his father's dark secrets) is pure joy to listen to. His see-saw changes from bravery to pure sheer fear and fright are hilarious. But Nat's interpretation of Danny's father is fun also. A man who doesn't smile with his mouth but with his eyes, as the narrator (Danny) tells us, is hard to portray with your voice only. Nat finds a way, believe me. The way this grown-up (is he really?) stays grave while having a hell of a good time is exquisite. And yes, there are many other hilarious characters. One who's my favourite is the local policeman who has a tendency to pronounce the letter "h" where it's not supposed to be. That of course is to balance the lack of the "h" where it should have been pronounced. This is a congenial interpretation of one of my favourite children's books. Did Nat have a ball recording this? May I quote? "Oh 'e did h'indeed."

Published by
BBC Audiobooks (August 1, 1999)
Unabridged / Out of Print
Audio Cassette
ISBN: 1855498642

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