It’s also about courage, loyalty and a little bit of class politics.
Danny extols the virtues of working class values, but as with all Dahl books, he subverts it a little. Honesty and the concept of being a law-abiding citizen are given a little Dahl-esque tweak.
Danny could be read as a modern day Robin Hood, except the class divide commentary is never really fully resolved here.
The local rich guy is too obviously the baddie and the idea of poaching being an art form is just a tad too convenient.
We all know that the simple, clean, wholesome life that Danny and his dad enjoyed is not the real picture of working class poverty. There may not be any magical elements in this particular Dahl story, but there is a lot of wish-fulfilment and whimsy.
Danny is rightly concerned about the ethics of stealing the pheasants. Having the entire village in on the scheme, doesn’t really make it proper. But Dahl doesn’t confront or challenge this dilemma at all which I found very curious and the one thing that would stop me recommending this book whole-heartedly.
Perhaps, though, it could become a good discussion about what to do when the adults in your life are doing something illegal? Or about the shades of grey that exist within some laws and some traditions? Or it could even be the opportunity to tackle the big question of class inequality – why some people are poor and don’t have enough to eat well while others wilfully waste the abundance that they do have?
Even Dahl’s final message to the reader is loaded with ambiguity and class tension.
As a child I would have found this message quite confronting because I knew from a very young age that your didn’t always get what you deserved, let alone what you wanted.
Danny is part of my 1001 Children’s Books to Read Before I Die challenge.