Ian Fleming, best known for his James Bond novels, wrote only one children’s book—and it is a classic! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the name of the flying, floating, driving-by-itself automobile that takes the Pott family on a riotous series of adventures as they try to capture a notorious gang of robbers. This is a story filled with humor, adventure, and gadgetry that only a genius like Fleming could create. The 1968 movie of the same name, starring Dick Van Dyke, was based loosely on this story.
33 pages with a reading time of ~45 minutes (8291 words), and first published in 1964. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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Most motor-cars are conglomerations (this is a long word for bundles) of steel and wire and rubber and plastic, and electricity and oil and petrol and water, and the toffee papers you pushed down the crack in the back seat last Sunday. Smoke comes out of the back of them and horn-squawks out of the front, and they have white lights like big eyes in front, and red lights behind. And that is about that–just motor-cars, tin boxes on wheels for running about in.
But some motor-cars–mine, for instance, and perhaps yours–are different. If you get to like them and understand them, if you are kind to them and don’t scratch their paint or bang their doors, if you fill them up and top them up and pump them up when they need it, if you keep them clean and polished and out of the rain and snow as much as possible, you will find, you may find, that they become almost like persons–more than just ordinary persons: MAGICAL PERSONS!
You don’t believe me? All right then! You just read about this car I’m going to tell you about! I believe you can guess its name already–her name, I should say. And then see if you don’t agree with me. All motor-cars aren’t just conglomerations of machinery and fuel. Some are.
Once upon a time there was a family called Pott. There was the father, who had been in the Royal Navy, Commander Caractacus Pott. (You may think that Caractacus sounds quite a funny name, but in fact the original Caractacus was the British chieftain who was a sort of Robin Hood in A.D. 48 and led an English army against the Roman invaders. I expect since then there have been plenty of other Caractacuses, but I don’t know anything about them.) Then there was the mother, Mimsie Pott, and a pair of eight-year-old twins–Jeremy, who was a black-haired boy, and Jemima, who was a golden-haired girl–and they lived in a wood beside a big lake with an island in the middle. On the other side of the lake, M. 20, the big motorway on the Dover road, swept away towards the sea. So they had the best of both worlds–lovely woods for catching beetles and finding birds’ eggs, with a lake for newts and tadpoles, and a fine big motor road close by so that they could go off and see the world if they wanted to.
Well, almost, that is. But the truth of the matter was that they hadn’t got enough money between them to buy a car. All the money they had went on necessities–food and heat and light and clothes and all those boring things that one doesn’t really notice but families have to have. There was only a little left over for birthday and Easter and Christmas presents and occasional surprise outings–the things that really matter.
But the Potts were a happy family who all enjoyed their lives and since they weren’t in the least sorry for themselves, or sorry that they hadn’t got a motor-car to go whirling about in, we needn’t be sorry for them either.
Now Commander Caractacus Pott was an explorer and an inventor, and that may have been the reason why the Pott family was not very rich. Exploring places and inventing things can be very exciting indeed, but it is only very seldom that, in your explorations, you discover a really rare butterfly or animal or insect or mineral or plant that people will pay money to see, and practically never that you discover real treasure, like in books–gold bars and diamonds and jewels in an old oak chest.
As for inventions, much the same troubles apply. People all over the world, in America, Russia, China, Japan, let alone England and Scotland and Wales and Ireland, are inventing or trying to invent things all the time–every kind of thing from rockets that fly to the moon to ways of making indiarubber balls bounce higher. Everything, everything, everything is being invented or improved all the time by somebody somewhere–whether by teams of scientists in huge factories and laboratories, or by lonely men sitting and just thinking in tiny workshops without many tools.
Just such a solitary inventor was Commander Caractacus Pott, and I am ashamed to say that because he was always dreaming of impossible inventions and adventures and explorations in the remotest parts of the earth, he was generally known in the neighbourhood as Commander Crackpott! You may think that’s cheek, and so it is, but Commander Pott was a humorous man and he knew his own shortcomings very well, so when he heard that that was his nickname in the neighbourhood he was not at all cross. He just roared with laughter and said, “I’ll show ‘em!” and disappeared into his workshop and didn’t come out for a whole day and a night.
During that time smoke came out of the workshop chimney and there were a lot of delicious smells, and when the children put their ears to the locked door they could hear mysterious bubblings and cooking-poppings, if you know what I mean; but nothing else at all.