Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian FlemingChitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car by Ian Fleming
Published by Candlewick on August 5, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy
Pages: 176
Format: Hardcover
Source: YA Books Central
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two-stars

Ian Fleming's treasured classic soars in a deluxe edition featuring John Burningham's vibrant, full-color original illustrations.

Famous for creating James Bond, Ian Fleming also loved fast cars -- and this passion inspired him to write his only children's book, penned for his young son, Caspar. Published fifty years ago in 1964, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car introduced the world to the thrilling adventures of the "crackpot" Pott family and the flying car with a mind of her own. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang became an instant bestseller that has been reinvented as a musical and a film (with a screenplay co-written by Roald Dahl) and has also inspired three sequels written by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Now, to honor half a century of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Candlewick Press presents a full-color gift edition ready to zoom straight into hearts of a new generation.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang wasn’t one of my favorite movies as a child, but I did watch it from time to time. As a bookish person, I couldn’t help being curious about the book upon which the film was based. Learning that the kid’s book was by the creator of James Bond only made me more inquisitive. It’s been so long since I saw the movie that I can’t speak to similarities, but I’m fairly certain the book is pretty different. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a  nice change of pace, but it’s also a very dated story and not really my thing.

I can see why children would still delight in this story. I mean, what kid wouldn’t love a car that could fly you to a beach just for your family or sail you to France? From a child’s perspective, I’m sure the adventures within Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are exciting and capture the imagination. It even concludes with the kids rescuing a chocolate shop from gangsters. So sure, I guess I can see why this is a classic and still getting new editions.

At the same time, though, I didn’t particularly enjoy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The writing’s really antiquated, which probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but I just was not prepared. It’s not written in a particularly accessible way. Infodumps abound as the author and the father explain things to the kids. There’s no tension in the moments meant to be scary. It’s all very dull and yet full of exclamation points in a cheap attempt to convey emotion. The title should also really be CHITTY-CHITTY–BANG-BANG, since that’s how the car’s name is written every single time.

I also have some difficulty accepting the premise that the gangsters, in recompense for the family Pott blowing up their stash, would kidnap the kids to assist them in robbing a chocolate shop. Even if the chocolate shop owner is incredibly wealthy, would he really keep all of his money in the lockbox in his store? This isn’t generally how shops operate. From an adult perspective, this is ludicrous. Kids might not question that, but I’m rolling my eyes.

Though the edition is gorgeous, perhaps my biggest problem above all of this was the art. I do not like John Burningham’s illustrations. His Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is pretty cool and the cover of this edition definitely lured me. However, his people are awful. It’s stylistic, sure, but not one that appeals to me. Here, for example, are Jeremy and Jemima:

IMG_0418

I just can’t handle this at all. They look so bad to me and did not help me to enjoy the story. They’re a bit similar in style to Quentin Blake, but even more spare. I love Quentin Blake because they just fit perfectly and these simplistic illustrations do not dovetail with Fleming’s verbose novel.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang isn’t a classic I would recommend too highly for adults. The magic definitely was not there for me, but it might have been if I’d been a young reader.

Favorite Quote:

“Never say ‘no’ to adventures.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif chitty chitty bang bang yeah

3 responses to “Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming”

  1. I read Chitty Chitty Bang Bang earlier this year, and I can definitely see the appeal to children. I I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by David Tennant and that definitely affected how I felt about this book.

    It’s definitely not my favorite kids book, but I did like it. It reminds me of older children’s books. But I can understand why this book isn’t for everyone.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Top Ten Books I Hope to Read by the End of 2014My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Oh yeah, I’m sure this would have been a three star if I’d listened to the audiobook. I listened to his narration of How to Train Your Dragon and I liked it, even though I didn’t like the book itself. He’s very powerful. :-p

      Chitty Chitty Bang Bang wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really my thing.

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