Danny, The Champion of the World is a novel by Roald Dahl.
Danny is only four months old when his mother suddenly dies; and at the beginning of the story, he lives with his widowed father, William, in a gypsy caravan, where William operates a filling station and garage. When Danny is nine years old, he discovers that William has habitually taken part in poaching pheasants from the estate of local magnate Mr. Hazell. One night, at 2:10 a.m., Danny discovers William's absence and, fearing some misfortune, drives an Austin Seven to Hazell's Wood, where he eventually finds his father in a pit-trap, disabled by a broken ankle, and brings him home. While William is recovering from his injury, he and Danny learn that Mr. Hazell's annual pheasant-shooting party is approaching, which he hosts for dukes, lords, barons, baronets, wealthy businessmen etc., and decide to humiliate him by capturing all the pheasants in the forest. To this end, Danny suggests that he and William should put the contents of sleeping pills prescribed by their surgeon Doc Spencer inside raisins which are then scattered in the woods.
Having poached 120 pheasants from Hazell's Wood, William and Danny hide them at the local vicar's house, while they take a taxi home. The next day, Mrs. Clipstone, the vicar's wife, delivers the sleeping pheasants in a specially-built oversized baby carriage; but the narcotic effect ceases, and many of the pheasants attempt to escape. Still drugged, they all perch around the filling station, just as Mr. Hazell himself arrives. With the help of Sgt. Enoch Samways, the local constable, William and Danny herd the groggy pheasants onto Mr. Hazell's Rolls Royce; but when they have woken up completely, the birds escape, and Mr. Hazell drives off in disgrace. The book ends when Danny is hailed as "the champion of the world" by William, Doc Spencer, and Sgt. Samways, of whom most acquire two pheasants each of which has died of a drug overdose. William and Danny then walk towards town, intending to buy a new oven to cook their pheasants.
Danny - The main character. He lives with his widowed father in a gypsy caravan.
William - Danny's widowed father. He operates a filling station and garage.
Victor Hazell - The main antagonist of the book. Described as a snobby, rich pheasant owner.
Lord Claybury - The lord
Dr. Spencer - Gives Danny the idea of using sleeping pills
Captain Lancaster - Danny's teacher, and a strict disciplinarian who enjoys corporal punishment.
Miss Hunter - Social worker
Mr Snoddy - The schools headmaster, he has a red nose and is always drinking 'water'. However William believes he is actually drinking vodka and having fun with girls
Sgt. Samways - The local policeman, who always leaves off H's at the beginning of words they belong to and adds H's where there shouldn't be.
A film version starring Jeremy Irons and his son Samuel Irons was released in 1989.
Danny, the Champion of the World is a fantastic read, centred round a little boy, Danny, who lives with his father in a gypsy caravan. The close bond between father and son develops as Danny begins to discover there is more to his already wonderful and enchanting father than he ever knew. The story navigates through various different happenings in the life of Danny and his father from meeting the BFG, lighting hot air balloons and creating kites. Until Danny wakes up one night to find his father is missing from the caravan and discover his father’s weakness-poaching pheasants! They set out together on a journey to poach as many pheasants as they possibly can off of the greedy land owner Mr Victor Hazell, will they succeed in doing so? Well you’ll have to read on to find out and it is well worth doing so!
An old time favourite amongst young and old, this book will make you feel excited with anticipation and desperate to turn over the next page. The book is great to read to key stage 2 as a treat in chapters as you’ll keep everyone’s attention in doing so. The story reflects on family, community and wildlife issues and will allow children to understand the problems surrounding these. The unusual illustrations by Quentin Blake make this also a light-hearted read with the children having the opportunity to create their own drawings of passages in the book. That said there are many people out there who much prefer Jill Bennett's original evocative artwork, and it may worth seeking out a second-hand older copy if possible. The film tie-in edition retained the original artwork by Jill Bennett.