Grief: Charlie's Dad is with him throughout this story. He is there in the holey boots Charlie runs in, and despite wearing Squizzy's new replacements for a while, when Charlie really grows up he goes back to wearing the boots he could never bring himself to throw away. Charlie often recalls his father's advice, e.g. about the true test of character (p.110) and to find himself a girl who can dance (p.127). After his father's death, Charlie: ‘got so confused sometimes (he) didn't know who it was (he) was supposed to be’ (p. 28). He really hasn't had time to grieve as he has been so busy growing up and trying to support his mother, and he hasn't really been able to talk about his father's death despite the many well-wishers.
Friendship: Charlies friendship with Nostrils began with a lie and is brought to crisis point when Charlie leaves Nostrils to be beaten up by Barlow. It is not until after the race that the debt is repaid.
Chance: e.g. When Nostrils slips running away from Barlow (p.147), and when Squizzy nearly shoots Charlie when the boy quits (p.169).
Humour: Charlie's voice brings the book to life, particularly when he indulges his flights of fantasy, or in his relationship with the duck. What he believed to be a Harriet turns out to be a Harry, so no luck with the egg laying; but the bird always seems to have one over on him until Charlie, the expert boxer, indulges in a contest with the bird.