Title: The Magic Finger
Author: Roald Dahl
Year published: 1966
Publisher: Puffin Books
Number of pages: 57
Recommended age: 8+
Summary (from Amazon): To the Gregg family, hunting is just plain fun. To the girl who lives next door, it’s just plain horrible. She tries to be polite. She tries to talk them out of it, but the Greggs only laugh at her. Then one day the Greggs go too far, and the little girl turns her Magic Finger on them. When she’s very, very angry, the little girl’s Magic Finger takes over. She really can’t control it, and now it’s turned the Greggs into birds! Before they know it, the Greggs are living in a nest, and that’s just the beginning of their problems…
1. What is the story about? This story is about a girl who has a magic finger and she points it at someone and they turn into birds. She points her finger at them because they were hunting and that makes her angry. When the people turn into birds they have arms and legs and they walk into the house. The people have to make a nest in a tree. They are really good at this even though they don’t have arms anymore. In the very end the people turn back to normal and they never go hunting again – instead they give seed to birds.
2. What do you think of the cover and/or the pictures in the book? If you didn’t like reading then the pictures look a bit like scribbles but coloured. The pictures are actually very good and dramatic. My favourite picture is the front cover because it has lots of colour and you can tell what the girl is doing.
3. Who is/are the main character(s)? Can you relate to them? Do you like them? How are they like you or not? The main characters are ‘girl’, William and Philip Gregg and their parents Mr and Mrs Gregg. The people are not really like me, especially the girl as she has a magic finger. I absolutely loved the characters, especially Mr Gregg. I liked him because he is funny and sometimes a scaredy-cat
4. Have you experienced anything in your life like what happens in this book? What happened? I have never experienced anything like what happens in this book because it is magic. The girl looks like my best friend when she gets angry and I think it is really bad to go hunting.
5. What is your favorite part of the story? My favourite parts of the story are when she points the magic finger at the Greggs and when she pointed her finger at her old teacher and turned her into a cat. I have been really cross before and I have wished I had a magic finger so I could set it on the person who made me angry.
6. What is your least favorite part of the story? My least favourite part of the story is when the Greggs hunted. I don’t like that they kill nature and don’t even care.
7. Are there parts of the story that don’t make sense? The story did not really make sense when the teacher grew a tail but this was funny.
8. How did the story make you feel? This story made me feel angry but at the same time made me think that I should respect everything and everyone.
9. What lessons did you learn from this story? This book definitely taught me to treat everyone with respect.
10. Who do you think would like this book? I would recommend this book to my friends and I will read it again myself. Girls and boys would both like this book because it isn’t just about boys or girls and it is funny too.
Daughter's Rating: ★★★★☆
What it’s about: This book is a classic from the author of Charlie and the Chocolate factory. This is the story of a girl with a magical secret. When she gets angry she gets hot all over and her finger twitches causing a flash to jump out onto the object of her ire. This happens when she sees two friends coming home from a hunting trip. The next 24 hours sees the family turned into ducks and their former prey move into the house to become the hunters.
This book does side against the pro-hunting family but there is maybe a bigger lesson: Would you behave differently if you had a genuine insight into the impact on your behaviour on others? I think this lesson resonates particularly well with children because this story is about behaviour which impacts on those who are powerless. This lesson lifts the book from being solely about hunting and elevates it to help children think about choices they’ve made and to also recognise injustices they have faced. In this story the family do decide to stop hunting and set about feeding birds instead. Interestingly the girl who causes the metamorphosis has no lesson to learn. I feel that the author has sided with his heroine as the person who shows others the consequences of their actions.
What I liked and disliked about it:
I loved this book as a child. This book is full of vivid images that have stayed with me from my own childhood. The book plays with the question of how it would feel to be hunted. This question is answered by literally turning a family of hunters into prey. The images this creates really plays to a child’s sense of humour with ducks taking over a house and adults forced to learn how to build a nest in a tree. Every child I know has responded with both revulsion and glee when the family have to contemplate a dinner of worms.
My favourite metaphor in the book is reserved for anger. This is shown as a heat, a growing hotness, followed by a tingling in the forefinger which leads a flash that jumps out and touches the person that has made the heroine cross. I love the description of anger as a physical reaction. I remember particularly connecting with the idea that rage at injustice lead to a confusing internal fury. I remember completely identifying with the idea that a child should have a powerful way to right an unfair situation.
The wonderful illustrations from Quentin Blake vividly capture this tale as it joyfully unfolds. The pictures not only perfectly represent the story but they also serve to break up the text which makes it more accessible to children who are more reluctant readers.
My bottom line: I have been surprised by how well this book has dated. There is nothing major that places this book in the past. The setting is rural but most children will recognise the setting with farms, school and woodland. This book is ideal for both boys and girls. My daughter read this book herself at 7 and read it again comfortably at 8. The book doesn’t have chapters but there are distinct episodes that allow for a pause and for the book to read over a number of sessions. I think you can read this book to younger children as it is a fun book and there is loads of imagery to share and enjoy. The length of the book means that older readers can return to this book and read it one session.
Mom's Rating: ★★★★★