Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl (Puffin Books)

The Magic Finger

Written by Roald Dahl

Illustrated by Quentin Blake

Published by Puffin Books

We've been continuing our journey through early chapter books, digging out a few of my old favourites along the way. You may have recently seen our review of "George's Marvellous Medicine" by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. We thought we'd tackle the equally brilliant "The Magic Finger" next before moving onto others.

For a fairly short and sweet book, "The Magic Finger" packs a wallop. Detailing the story of a young girl who has an extraordinary secret power, it does what Roald Dahl books do so brilliantly, creates situations and characters that children secretly would love to be able to recreate themselves.

"Girl" (for that is how she's referred to in the book) can concentrate really hard and "put the magic finger" on anyone who upsets her. A nasty teacher (a recurring theme in Dahl's books - and you'll know why if you've read Dahl's "Boy"), a set of rotten neighbours who like to hunt animals with their impressive collection of guns - Basically anyone who crosses "Girl" is in for a very nasty time indeed.

After an incident in class, Girl puts the magic finger on her teacher who grows into a massive and rather whiskery cat. Girl also puts the magic finger on Mr and Mrs Gregg and their sons Philip and William, after they slaughter deer and ducks while hunting for their supper. The effect on the Greggs is spellbinding and astounding, they swap places with the ducks they've been blazing away at - and realise the error of their ways.

Dahl has a way with presenting moral tales that don't wag a finger (magic or otherwise), don't preach, and tales that speak to children in a language that feels like their own. Sometimes very dark, quite often incredibly subversive but always with purpose and meaning. His characters here have impact, and the narrative is often delivered through their eyes as events unfold.

I remember when I first read this book, spending weeks wondering what it would be like to have that sort of power - to be able to right wrongs, become a finger-wielding superhero!

Charlotte liked the fact that the ducks get their revenge, but are actually quite forgiving (more than I would be if my entire family was blasted to bits by some thoughtless hunters). I love the subtle undertones of guilt that "Girl" feels when she wields her power, but always with a sense of right and wrong firmly underpinning her actions (I also love the fact that she mixes up her numbers at the start of the book - you'll see what I mean).

Quentin Blake's scratchy but well-suited illustrations are fab, and though this is one of the shorter Dahl books, it's brilliant for early readers who don't want to have to wade through a book that's going to take ages to deliver its payload.

Charlotte's best bit: Duck dinner time!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Magical and meaningful, with plenty of brilliant moments where you'd really love - or loathe - a power like Girl's