Several years ago my children were just beginning to enter the age where they could appreciate classic Disney live-action films, and I was thrilled to have an excuse to revisit some of my old favorites. I grew up loving Haley Mills, Tommy Kirk, Annette Funicello, and all of their Mickey Mouse Club peers. Top of my list was The Parent Trap and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones.
As I was looking for DVD or streaming versions of my favorites, I was also building a list of other Disney films that I had not seen as a child. With some relish, we rented Dr. Doolittle and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Based on the old Disney brand and the casts, I was expecting something really excellent. Sadly, I was bored and confused by both. I began to understand why my parents may have opted not to share them with us. They were long, they were strange, and they just didn’t entertain with the same kind of magic as something like Mary Poppins.
For many years I have heard Chitty Chitty Bang Bang recommended as great boyish reading and that it was a children’s classic. The movie had so turned me off, however, that I wasn’t interested in even considering it.
And yet, I could not seem to escape the recommendation. It was everywhere I looked. Finally, I saw a reference online they gave me a little help. Someone else had expressed how much they disliked the film and how surprised they were by how different the book was. Once I realized that David Tennant did the audiobook, I decided to look into it with a little less reserve. I was shocked to discover that the first Chitty Chitty Bang Bang book was penned by Sir Ian Fleming. I am not a James Bond fan, however, I was more optimistic about the text knowing that a reputable author was behind it.
I am very glad that I overcame my bias and gave it a fair try. The book is hilarious. It is nothing like the movie. It is a bit more magical, a bit more practical, and certainly less epic than the film.
It’s a book about a magical mechanical marvel – a car with her own personality and loyalty, and the family who adopts her. There is a kidnapping, but it’s much less prolonged and a bit goofier than it was in the movie. It definitely smacks of James Bond with it’s mechanical genius – “Chitty” (the car) can be adapted to any situation with just the push of a button…
This book has been enjoyed by several generations in print. But if you know David Tennant at all, if you have ever seen him in Doctor Who, you will know that he is exactly the right narrator for this audiobook. There is no question in my mind that this book is improved simply because David Tennant is reading it. Simply put, he speaks about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (again, the car herself) with the same kind of knowing affection that he uses to reference the Tardis.
This is certainly not high-quality literature. But it’s pretty wholesome, quite funny, and very boyish. Our copy does have some interesting ink illustration. The book itself is a on par with other boyish chapter books and is appropriate for any audience.