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The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl

The Story

The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl is one of the author's shorter works (approximately 60 pages long depending on the edition) so the book can be thoroughly enjoyed in a relatively short time.

This story is told by an eight year old girl, who remains nameless throughout. She tells us of the Gregg family and the 'very funny' things that happened to them the week before. We learn that 'the one thing that Mr. Gregg and his two boys loved to do more than anything else was to go hunting'. Every weekend they would take their guns into the woods and find animals and birds to shoot. However, the little girl telling the story 'can't stand hunting'. She warned the Greggs about it but her warnings went unheeded. 'Well, that did it!'... The girl 'saw red' and she '...PUT THE MAGIC FINGER ON THEM ALL !' - even the family members who weren't there at the time!

The girl doesn't even know 'how' she does it, but it always happens when she gets cross and sees red... then she gets 'very, very hot all over'. Eventually this state brings a terrible tingling to the tip of the forefinger on her right hand and then 'suddenly a sort of flash comes out' like electric and touches the person who has made her cross. When the Magic Finger is put on people, 'then things begin to happen...'

From the moment that the Magic Finger is put onto the Gregg family, strange things do indeed begin to happen, and overnight they are reduced to the condition of the very creatures that they so much loved to hunt. When they discover they have grown wings where their arms used to be Mr. Gregg cried 'This is Witches work!', and both he and his wife 'started running around the room, flapping their wings'.

With the family coming to terms with their new forms, they really come to learn what it is like being a bird. Learning to fly; building a nest, discovering that you can't very easily eat an apple 'without holding it in your hands.' However, a real learning curve hits them when the ducks that have been following them take over their house and then begin shooting at them! But do the Gregg's actually learn their lesson? You'll have to read the book to discover the ending! But all readers beware of any angry eight-year old girls with tingling forefingers...

Book Information:

The Magic Finger was one of Dahl's earlier children's books to be published. It was first published in 1966 in America, by publishers Harper & Row, after it was rejected by Knopf. This original edition included illustrations by William Pene Du Bois. The first edition can be a little tricky to identify - as the words '1st edition' do not appear on the copyright page. However, if the wrapper is present, the first edition wrappers have $2.50 printed to top of the front flap, where as later issues were priced at $2.57.

It wasn't until two years later, in 1968 that the book was published in the UK, by publishers Allen & Unwin. Issued without a dustwrapper, it still had illustrations by William Pene Du Bois. Dating a first UK edition is easier than its counterpart. The copyright page states "first published in Great Britain in 1968" with no other dates but the 1966 copyright date.

Later editions of this title include the paperback version, published by Puffin Books in 1989 - this time illustrated by Tony Ross. In 1993, a hardback edition, also illustrated by Tony Ross was published by Viking International. 1995 saw The Magic Finger published in a new edition, again by Viking International, however, this time illustrated by a name now synonymous with many Dahl titles; that of Quentin Blake.

Please Click Here to see all the different editions of The Magic Finger that we have in stock at present.

Contributed by Joanne Hill

(Published 10th Dec 2014)

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