Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang is more than an imaginative adventure story for children with a warm tone that is both appealing and encouraging for young readers. Its themes include the need for family cooperation and an enthusiasm for exploration and ingenuity. In addition, the story promotes the advantages of being different. Throughout the adventures, all the family members are portrayed as individuals with intelligence, compassion, and an interconnectedness and a reliance on one another that make them an engaging group. While the magical car becomes the means to experience adventures, it too depends on the skills and care of its owners; its abilities are only a part of the family’s successes. The togetherness and love of the Potts family give the book an educational slant and moral dimension useful for teaching values in the home and the classroom.
As with Fleming’s twelve James Bond novels and short-story collections, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang relies on the author’s interest in mechanical gadgets, an element that made the book readily filmable and gave it lasting appeal for readers in a technological age. In his introduction to Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, Fleming claims that his book is based on the original Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, a car built by a Count Zborowski in 1920 on his estate near Canterbury, England. Fleming described the unusual car as having a pre-1914 chain drive engine and a Mercedes chassis installed with a six-cylinder, seventy-five-horsepower military engine used in German zeppelins. It had a gray steel body with a eight-foot-long hood and weighed four tons. The car won several racing awards in 1921 and 1922 until it was wrecked in an accident.
Fleming’s use of such detailed accuracy in all his imaginative books lends them an air of believability and credibility despite their obviously fantastical elements. In this, his only book written for a juvenile audience, he merges his trademark eye for meticulous detail with a lighthearted humor. That combination makes Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang far different from his other, darker novels and stories, which are often described as works centering on sex, sadism, and snobbery—notably Casino Royale (1953), From Russia with Love (1957), Doctor No (1958), and Goldfinger (1959).
The initial popularity of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang was augmented by the then-intense media interest in the author, which led to wide-scale merchandising of the book and its spinoff projects. The book was published in 1964, just before Fleming’s death, at a time when popular books and films featuring his super spy character, James Bond, agent 007, were the center of an international phenomenon. These works served as an inspiration for a number of television shows and films about Cold War espionage, as well as interest in other authors writing about that subject. A few years later, this attention widened to include Fleming’s book for children: United Artists and Albert Broccoli, the producer of the James Bond films, decided to issue a...
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