It was a roaster of a day, and at breakfast Commander Pott made an announcement. “Today,” he said, “is going to be a roaster, a scorcher. There’s only one thing to do, and that’s for us to take a delicious picnic and climb into Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang and dash off down the Dover Road to the sea.”
Mimsie filled a hamper with hard-boiled eggs, cold sausages, bread-and-butter sandwiches, jam puffs (with, of course, like all good jam puffs, more jam than puff), and bottles and bottles of the best fizzy lemonade and orange soda. Then they all piled into the car…and with Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang’s usual two sneezes and two small explosions they were off…
But, but, but! And once again, but!!
Twenty-two thousand, six hundred and fifty-four other motorcars full of families…had also decided to drive down the Dover Road to the sea on that beautiful Saturday morning, and there was an endless stream of cars going the same way as the Pott family in Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.
Suddenly, Commander Pott happened to glance at the dashboard…and he said excitedly, “I say, all of you, look at that!”
And amongst all the knobs and instruments a light on top of a small knob was flashing pale pink! And it was showing a word, and the word said “PULL”!
“Good heavens!” said Commander Pott. “I wondered what that knob was for, but it’s one of the ones I haven’t had time to tinker with. What can it be for?”
“Look!” cried Mimsie. “The light’s turning red!”
And sure enough it was, and now another word was showing! And do you know what the other word said? It said “IDIOT!” So now the angry red knob read “PULL IDIOT!” And Commander Pott laughed out loud and said, “Well, I never! That’s pretty saucy! Here’s Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang taking control and calling me an idiot into the bargain! Oh, well! Here goes!” And he reached over and pulled down the little silver lever.
If your only acquaintance with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is watching Dick Van Dyke dressed in dapper suit and goggles, you are missing out on one of the most delightful little gems of children’s literature. The story was written by none other than Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, and as such, it’s full of the best elements of Danger and Thrill, delivered in a child-friendly package.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a marvelous, magical automobile, owned by the dreamy inventor, Caractacus Pott, his wife, Mimsie, and eight-year-old twins, Jeremy and Jemima. One hot, August day, the Pott family sets out in their clever motorcar for a picnic at the seaside, and winds up in a whale of an adventure. First flown by the car to a private beach, then rescued by her from incoming tides, the Pott family opts to cross the Channel and see France before returning home.
But, but, but and again but! Things take a mighty hair-raising turn when they arrive, quite by accident, in a smuggler’s cave, and become completely entangled with Joe the Monster’s surly gang! Secret passageways, scary skeletons, grim stockpiles of bayonets and bombs, fantastic explosions, kidnappings, and a conspiracy to burgle a candy shop …all this and more await the unsuspecting Potts!
Can you think of any ingredients missing from this story? In 150 short, fast-reading pages, Fleming packs them all in, from whistling candies to magical cars, from nasty criminals to the quick-thinking kids who outsmart them, and even a recipe for Monsieur BonBon’s Top-secret Fudge. We read this aloud several times when my kids were small. Its on-the-edge-of-your-seat adventure, delightful narrator’s voice, and jolly capture-of-the-bad-guys will tickle the fancy of kids ages 6 and up. The older editions have illustrations by John Burningham, much the better than those in the newer reprints.
A brand-new sequel to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, is being released in March. The flavor of that new book sounds like it will be quite different from the original. I look forward to reading it, but would encourage you not to miss the genius of the original as well.
Here’s the Amazon link: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang