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This review is from: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car (Paperback)
Most films derived from books tell a story that is at least somewhat different from the book; the film of this book is even more different than most. In the book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has the same name, a similarly successful racing career brought to an early end by a crash, is re-built by inventor Caractapus Pott, who has children named Jeremy and Jemima, and is revealed to have magical properties, including the ability to fly. Sweets that double as tuneful whistles, and music and dance in the sweet factory also feature in both book and film, but Truly Scrumptious, the eccentric Grandfather, Baron Bomburst and Vulgaria appear only in the film. However, the children in the book do have a mother, Mimsie Pott.
The setting is England. As a first drive in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the family set out for Dover beach, intending to picnic there. They soon meet the back of a long traffic jam. Whereupon Chitty Chitty Bang Bang reveals the first of her special features and they fly to spend a happy day picnicing and playing on a sandbank in the middle of the English Channel.
The sandbank is the notorious Goodwin Sands. Disaster almost strikes when the tide comes in, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang gets them out of trouble, taking them to the French coast. There they discover and explore a deep cave, which proves to be an ammunition dump used by Joe the Monster and his criminal gang. I won't spoil the story by telling you all that happens, but the fast-moving tale quickly takes us to Calais and then - through Jeremy and Jemima being kidnapped and taken there - Paris.
Eventually, the story ends happily, thanks to the intelligence and gadgetry of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the cool nerve of Jeremy and Jemima, and also to Caractacus and Mimsie Pott, who are as interesting and helpful as parents as any child could wish. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is not quite as pretty as the car seen in the film, but is cleverer and has several features not seen in the film. She also has the registration GEN 11, which Jeremy and Jemima are quick to notice spells Genii.
The book has three separate chapter-adventures. It is a good, solid read for children aged 8 to 10, or it could be read to younger children. I strongly recommend the 1968 edition, illustrated by John Burningham, but for that you will have to buy a pre-used copy. In that edition, most pages have a picture to help things along; many in color. (John Burningham is also known for Mr. Gumpy's Outing, Mr Gumpy's Motor Car, Granpa, and more.)