Daring, rebellious, anti-establishment and bordering on anarchistic – having a William Smith as your dad means life is one long adventure. Handy and practical, he’s always tinkering with the car and can fix pretty much anything. Read an extract from Danny, the Champion of the World on why his dad really is a top pop. We defy you not to eye-smile while reading it.
My father, without the slightest doubt, was the most marvellous and exciting father any boy ever had.
You might think, if you didn’t know him well, that he was a stern and serious man. He wasn’t. He was actually a wildly funny person. What made him appear so serious was the fact that he never smiled with his mouth. He did it all with his eyes. He had brilliant blue eyes and when he thought of something funny, his eyes would flash and if you looked carefully, you could actually see a tiny golden spark dancing in the middle of each eye. But the mouth never moved.
I was glad my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave a fake smile, because it’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren’t feeling twinkly yourself. A mouth-smile is different. You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips. I’ve also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it, so watch out, I say when someone smiles at you with his mouth but the eyes stay the same. It’s sure to be bogus.
My father was not what you would call an educated man and I doubt if he had read twenty books in his life. But he was a marvellous story-teller. He used to make up a bedtime story for me every night, and the best ones were turned into serials and went on for many nights running.
One of them, which must have gone on for at least fifty nights, was about an enormous fellow called The Big Friendly Giant, or The BFG for short. The BFG was three times as tall as an ordinary man and his hands were as big as wheelbarrows. He lived in a vast underground cavern not far from our filling-station and he only came out in the open when it was dark. Inside the cavern he had a powder-factory where he made more than a hundred different kinds of magic powder.
Occasionally, as he told his stories, my father would stride up and down waving his arms and waggling his fingers. But mostly he would sit close to me on the edge of my bunk and speak very softly.
‘The Big Friendly Giant makes his magic powders out of the dreams that people dream when they are asleep,’ he said.
‘How?’ I asked. ‘Tell me how, Dad.’
‘Dreams, my love, are very mysterious things. They float around in the night air like little clouds, searching for sleeping people.’
‘Can you see them?’ I asked.
‘Nobody can see them.’
‘Then how does The Big Friendly Giant catch them?’
‘Ah,’ my father said. ‘That is the interesting part. A dream, you see, as it goes drifting through the night air, makes a tiny little buzzing-humming sound, a sound so soft and low it is impossible for ordinary people to hear it. But The BFG can hear it easily. His sense of hearing is absolutely fantastic.’
I loved the far intent look on my father’s face when he was telling a story. His face was pale and still and distant, unconscious of everything around him.
‘The BFG’, he said, ‘can hear the tread of a ladybird’s footsteps as she walks across a leaf. He can hear the whisperings of ants as they scurry around in the soil talking to one another. He can hear the sudden shrill cry of pain a tree gives out when a woodman cuts into it with an axe. Ah yes, my darling, there is a whole world of sound around us that we cannot hear because our ears are simply not sensitive enough.’
‘What happens when he catches the dreams?’ I asked.
‘He imprisons them in glass bottles and screws the tops down tight,’ my father said. ‘He has thousands of those bottles in his cave.’
‘Does he catch bad dreams as well as good ones?’
‘Yes,’ my father said. ‘He catches both. But he only uses the good ones in his powders.’
‘What does he do with the bad ones?’
‘He explodes them.’
It is impossible to tell you how much I loved my father. When he was sitting close to me on my bunk I would reach out and slide my hand into his, and then he would fold his long fingers around my fist, holding it tight.
This Father’s Day make your number one dad feel like he’s top of your chart by taking our pop quiz and discover which literary papa is most like your old man – and most importantly, what book will really be a hit with him! Just visit the Penguin UK Books Facebook page to take the quiz.
Extract taken from Danny, the Champion of the World, Roald Dahl, Puffin.