This unexpected aphorism on the last page of Danny the Champion of the World is one of the reasons it’s my favorite childhood book. I remember the first time I read it, perhaps around 10, and being blown away by such a simple story. Unlike most of the books I loved, there was no mystery to be solved, no dating drama, no space/time travel, not even female characters.
Obviously, I knew Roald Dahl was a visionary, just not that he could top fantastical stories of witches and giants. I’d go to his section in the library and work my way around every book under his name, always avoiding DTCOTW, partly because of its thickness and unfortunate cover illustration.
Its magic lies in simple, evocative details and the love between parent and child. Roald taps into what, I dare say, every kid wants—more than dragons and video games and drugs—an amazing mentor who’s curious and not only lets, but goads his/her to explore every natural curiosity.
Like Danny’s dad, mine was the type to suggest we build a kite or sew a doll instead of buying one at the store. He took me on hikes and let me taste berries and flowers (he knew his botany). He included me in every home improvement project and let me take apart any appliance I wanted to so I could look at the tiny electrical landscapes inside. Even when I was in high school, too cool to entertain his whims, he kept doing them because he genuinely liked building clocks and whittling hideous wood figures.
The main narrative of DTCOTW involves a peasant heist where they fill raisins with sleeping powder and feed them to the peasants that live in the woods of a gross landowner who’s out to destroy their indie gas station—random but awesome. Reminds me of the time my dad stole two geese eggs from a nest near our house and took them home to see if we could make them hatch. We put them in a makeshift incubator and two months later, it was safe to say they wouldn’t see this world. Even though we knew it was messed up, we did it in the name of science.