Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again (Read This Sequel!)

Bang Bang. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Who would’ve thought the author of the intricately woven James Bond spy novels could write such a light and fun-filled caper suitable for children? But in fact, that’s just what Ian Fleming did. What began as a trio of stories told to his son Caspar at bedtime about an adventure-loving family and a magical car that could fly bloomed into a mega-popular chapter book for children—the only one the British author wrote before he died of a heart attack on Caspar’s 12th birthday just shy of the book’s publication in August, 1964. Fleming didn’t get to benefit from his book’s success, nor did he envision it would be loosely made into a 1968 musical written by Roald Dahl, starring Dick Van Dyke. (The movie is, in fact, quite different from the book. It has a snappier ending, among other changes.) He did, however, suspect he had a handle on a rollicking story kids and their parents would be talking about for generations to come.

He was right.

Families ate up the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang because it followed not just the kids but an entire family on their nearly cataclysmic expeditions across the English Channel and through the French countryside and into Paris, fighting chocolate shop-thieving hoodlums and notorious kidnappers over land (think booby-trapped caves), air and sea.  They loved Fleming’s characters’ superlative, curly-q names like Caractacus Potts, Monsieur BonBon, and Lord Skrumshus, and of course the fudge recipe included at the end of the book was every sweet tooth’s dream. The fact that Chitty herself was modeled after a series of racing cars (albeit non-magical versions) built by real-life racer Count Louis Zborowski in an attempt to break the world land-speed record in 1921 made the book that more appealing.

At the end of Fleming’s adventure (the book, not the movie), the car drives off into the sunset to destinations unknown, piquing readers’ curiosities and causing everyone to wonder where oh where is Chitty off to next? Sadly, we had to wait almost half a century to find out. But this week, the moment has finally arrived! Commissioned by Fleming’s own nieces who now control his estate, the best-selling British author Frank Cottrell Boyce (Millions (made into a movie by Danny Boyle), The Unforgotten CoatCosmic) offers up his vision of what Chitty’s been up to—and it has been well worth the wait.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again  (delightful black-and-white drawings throughout by illustrator Joe Berger) opens with a new family on the scene and Chitty nowhere in sight. The bi-racial Tootings are as close-knit as they come, although not without their modern quirks. Lucy, the smart as a whip but can’t-be-bothered, all black-wearing daughter reminds me of the Morrissey-loving Goth—a permanent fixture in coffee shop booths and at poetry readings back in the 90s. Alternatively, her brother Jem (short for Jeremy) is devoted and good-natured, with a bundle of his own proclivities (fixing cars, for one), and a lively baby brother affectionately called Little Harry plus their set of hopelessly in love and terribly well-adjusted parents round out the mix. But not to worry. Despite its Beaver Cleaver cast, this book is anything but boring.

To read the rest of this post, please visit  Letter Blocks: The B&N Parents and Educators Blog.

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