Welcome to the Roald Dahl 100 Celebratory blog tour! Today, I’m featuring one of my very favorite Dahl stories, Danny the Champion of the World, complete with adorable cover and an excerpt. Published back in 1975, this story features a smart little boy and his gentle father…who likes to poach pheasants from his grotty neighbor’s woods in his spare time. (Little kids outwitting nasty adults is a trope that consistently appears in Dahl’s work and one that I’ve always enjoyed.)
This year marks 100 years since Dahl’s birth and, with it, Penguin unveiled a new collectible hardcover editions of some of Roald Dahl’s stories: Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and James and the Giant Peach.
What’s your favorite Roald Dahl story? How ’bout a chance to win a celebratory prize pack? Check out the excerpt and enter for a chance to win!Danny the Champion of the World on 1975
Pages: 224 pages
Danny’s life seems perfect: his home is a gypsy caravan, he’s the youngest car mechanic around, and his best friend is his dad, who never runs out of wonderful stories to tell. And when Danny discovers his father’s secret, he’s off on the adventure of a lifetime. Here’s Roald Dahl’s famous story about a 9-year-old boy, his dad, and a daring and hilarious pheasant-snatching expedition. Just as important, it’s the story of the love between a boy and his father who, in Danny’s own words, is “the most marvelous and exciting father a boy ever had.”
Danny, The Champion of the World Excerpt
When I was four months old, my mother died suddenly and my father was left to look after me all by himself. This is how I looked at the time.
I had no brothers or sisters.
So all through my boyhood, from the age of four months onward, there was just us two, my father and me.
We lived in an old gypsy caravan behind a filling station. My father owned the filling station and the caravan and a small meadow behind, but that was about all he owned in the world. It was a very small filling station on a small country road surrounded by fields and woody hills.
While I was still a baby, my father washed me and fed me and changed my diapers and did all the millions of other things a mother normally does for her child. That is not an easy task for a man, especially when he has to earn his living at the same time by repairing automobile engines and serving customers with gasoline.
But my father didn’t seem to mind. I think that all the love he had felt for my mother when she was alive he now lavished upon me. During my early years, I never had a moment’s unhappiness or illness, and here I am on my fifth birthday.
I was now a scruffy little boy as you can see, with grease and oil all over me, but that was because I spent all day in the workshop helping my father with the automobiles.
The filling station itself had only two pumps. There was a wooden shed behind the pumps that served as an office There was nothing in the office except an old table and a cash register to put the money into. It was one of those where you pressed a button and a bell rang and the drawer shot out with a terrific bang. I used to love that.
The square brick building to the right of the office was the workshop. My father built that himself with loving care, and it was the only really solid thing on the place. “We are engineers, you and I,” he used to say to me. “We earn our living by repairing engines and we can’t do good work in a rotten workshop.” It was a fine workshop, big enough to take one automobile comfortably and leave plenty of room around the sides for working. It had a telephone so that customers could ring up and arrange to bring their cars in for repair.
The caravan was our house and our home. It was a real old gypsy wagon with big wheels and fine patterns painted all over it in yellow and red and blue. My father said it was at least one hundred and fifty years old. Many gypsy children, he said, had been born in it and had grown up within its wooden walls. With a horse to pull it, the old caravan must have wandered for thousands of miles along the roads and lanes of England. But now its wanderings were over, because the wooden spokes in the wheels were beginning to rot, my father had propped it up underneath with bricks.
There was only one room in the caravan, and it wasn’t much bigger than a fair-sized modern bathroom. It was a narrow room, the shape of the caravan itself, and against the back wall were two bunk beds, one above the other. The top one was my father’s, the bottom one mine.
Although we had electric lights in the workshop, we were not allowed to have them in the caravan. The electricity people said it was unsafe to put wires into something as old and rickety as that. So we got our heat and light in much the same way as the gypsies had done years ago. There was a wood-burning stove with a chimney that went up through the roof, and this kept us warm in winter. There was a kerosene burner on which to boil a kettle or cook a stew, and there was a kerosene lamp hanging from the ceiling.
When I needed a bath, my father would heat a kettle of water and pour it into a basin. Then he would stop me naked and scrub me all over, standing up. This, I think, got me just as clean as if I were washed in a bathtub—probably cleaner because I didn’t finish up sitting in my own dirty water.
For furniture, we had two chairs and a small table, and those, apart from a tiny chest of drawers, were all the home comforts we possessed. They were all we needed.
The lavatory was a funny little wooden hut standing in the meadow way back of the caravan. It was fine in the summertime, but I can tell you that sitting out there on a snowy day in winter was like sitting in an icebox.
Immediately behind the caravan was an old apple tree. It bore fine apples that ripened in the middle of September. You could go on picking them for the next four or five weeks. Some of the boughs of the tree hung right over the caravan and when the wind blow the apples down in the night, they often landed on our roof. I would hear them going thump…thump…thump….above my head as I lay in my bunk, but those noises never frightened me because I knew exactly what was making them.
I really loved living in the gypsy caravan. I loved it especially in the evenings when I was tucked up in my bunk and my father was telling me stories. The kerosene lamp was turned low, and I could see lumps of wood glowing red-hot in the old stove, and wonderful it was to be lying there snug and warm in my bunk in that little room. Most wonderful of all was the feeling that when I went to sleep, my father would still be there, very close to me, sitting in his chair by the fire, or lying in the bunk above my own.
Illustrations Copyright © Quentin Blake
Copyright © Roald Dahl, Reprinted with Permission of Penguin
Roald Dahl (1916–1990) was one of the world’s most imaginative, successful and beloved storytellers. He was born in Wales of Norwegian parents and spent much of his childhood in England. After establishing himself as a writer for adults with short story collections such as Kiss Kiss and Tales of the Unexpected, Roald Dahl began writing children’s stories in 1960 while living with his family in both the U.S. and in England. His first stories were written as entertainment for his own children, to whom many of his books are dedicated.
Roald Dahl’s first children’s story, The Gremlins, was a story about little creatures that were responsible for the various mechanical failures on airplanes. The Gremlins came to the attention of both First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who loved to read the story to her grandchildren, and Walt Disney, with whom Roald Dahl had discussions about the production of a movie.
Roald Dahl was inspired by American culture and by many of the most quintessential American landmarks to write some of his most memorable passages, such as the thrilling final scenes in James and the Giant Peach – when the peach lands on the Empire State Building! Upon the publication of James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl began work on the story that would later be published as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and today, Roald Dahl’s stories are available in 58 languages and, by a conservative estimate, have sold more than 200 million copies.
Roald Dahl also enjoyed great success for the screenplays he wrote for both the James Bond film You Only Live Twice in 1967 and for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, released one year later, which went on to become a beloved family film. Roald Dahl’s popularity continues to increase as his fantastic novels, including James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Matilda, The BFG, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, delight an ever-growing legion of fans.
Two charities have been founded in Roald Dahl’s memory: the first charity, Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, created in 1991, focuses on making life better for seriously ill children through the funding of specialist nurses, innovative medical training, hospitals, and individual families across the UK.
The second charity, The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre – a unique cultural, literary and education hub – opened in June 2005 in Great Missenden where Roald Dahl lived and wrote many of his best-loved works. 10% of income from Roald Dahl books and adaptations are donated to the two Roald Dahl charities.
On September 13, 2006, the first national Roald Dahl Day was celebrated, on what would have been the author’s 90th birthday. The event proved such a success that Roald Dahl Day is now marked annually all over the world. September 13, 2016 is Roald Dahl 100, marking 100 years since the birth of the world’s number one storyteller. There will be celebrations for Roald Dahl 100 throughout 2016, delivering a year packed with gloriumptious treats and surprises for everyone.
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