Literary Guide for Roald Dahls’ “Danny the Champion of the World”

Danny the Champion of the World
by Roald Dahl

Beloved and quirky children’s writer Roald Dahl is known for his strange yet fascinating tales that capture the curiosity and imagination of kids of all ages. Dahl’s characters are often just on the verge of being unbelievable – they are balanced perfectly in between the real world and the realm of Dahl’s imagination. Each story creates a world for the reader that features a special kind of fantasy – the events that take place could never happen within the reader’s world, yet somehow they are not out of place within a similar context in the story.

Our Summer Reading Resource literary guide series continues this week with Danny the Champion of the World, one of many Roald Dahl classics. The story focuses on Danny and his father, an oddball pair who live in a gypsy wagon behind a combination gas station/repair shop. The two are often bullied by their wealthy (and snobby) neighbor Mr. Hazell, and their mutual dislike for the man leads to the pair hatching a plan to exact revenge upon him. However, in the process, Danny ends up learning one of his father’s biggest secrets – a secret that leads to Danny grappling with a challenging moral dilemma. In the end, the two beautifully execute a hilariously sneaky (yet morally questionable) endeavor that does, in fact, satisfy their desire to teach Mr. Hazell a lesson…

The themes presented in the book deal mainly with making good choices – Danny is faced with multiple challenges wherein he must deeply consider the reasons and justification for his actions and future plans. However, the silly story and quirky characters prevent the tale from being too heavy for young readers, making it a fun book for bedtime read-aloud time or to absorb aurally on CD during summer travel.

The literature guide is written with 4th grade students in mind, but the story can be easily read and appreciated by younger students who have begun reading chapter books. The theme of the story makes it an engaging read for older students and parents, as well. Families can deepen their understanding of the story and create further learning opportunities by making time for discussion after absorbing each chapter, and by working to make connections to the text throughout the story. The major characters have lots of depth and are well established within the text, making character examination a similarly engaging and educational activity. Families can spend time discussing their understanding of each character’s personality and the motives for their choices, and in doing so will learn to examine the characters from multiple perspectives. Finally, perhaps the most valuable skill that can be acquired while reading the story is the ability to make a morally sound decision. Families can discuss together whether or not they would have made Danny’s choices (and why), and can use activities included in the literature guide to continue to examine morals and difficult choices.

Once you’ve read and dissected the book, try out the movie version of the story. Comparing the plot of the book to that of the movie can be a fun project – look for similarities and differences, and be sure to discuss whether viewing the movie instead of reading the book may have changed how a viewer interpreted the events.


ABOUT THE SERIES

Hilltown Families weekly Summer Reading Resource series shares downloadable guides of children’s literature from graduate students in the Integrated Learning teacher preparation program at Antioch University New England. Each literary guide pairs a featured book with suggestions for ways to help children expand their thinking, create connections to the text, and allow their literacy skills to grow. These guides contain outlines with discussion questions, art projects, outdoor adventures, and many other activities that are designed for use in classrooms but can very easily be adapted for use at home for supplemental education. Featured titles cover a wide variety of themes, lengths, and levels of difficulty – meaning there’s something for every family, and for every reader! Some are classics, some are lesser-known gems – but all of the books present potential for helping families build upon the stories that they read together. — Interested in featuring this series at your local library or school? Email Sienna at swildfield@hilltownfamilies.org.

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