Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Framed in the voice of a narrator retelling a story that he has overheard, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang is a three-part, primarily third-person adventure narrative built around an eccentric family and their magical car. The warmth and color of the text is supported by illustrator John Birmingham’s drawings and paintings, both small and full-page, which enliven the reading experience. Much of the book’s tone is built on Ian Fleming’s use of onomatopoeia and his chatty, rambling, and informal style. His lively, descriptive language prevents any details of scientific solemnity from distracting from his primary purpose—to entertain children.

In the first part of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, the Pott family is introduced. Having a lineage going back to the Romans, the Potts live beside a lake near a turnpike outside Canterbury, England. Jeremy and Jemima are eight-year-old twins living with their mother, Mimsie, and their father, Commander Caractacus Pott, a humorous, dreamy, unsuccessful explorer and inventor known in the neighborhood as “Crackpot Pott.” They are poor, without money to buy a car, but happy.

The unconventional Commander invents “Crackpot’s Whistling Sweets,” a combination toy and candy that he sells to a candy maker, Lord Scrumptious, for one thousand pounds. This money allows the family to buy an extraordinary automobile. They discover an old wreck on its way to the junkyard, a car that was clearly once...

(The entire section is 570 words.)