Roald Dahl’s classic encourages kindness & empathy

For a children’s story that encourages a child to walk in someone else’s shoes, develop empathy and a respect for animals, then try Roald Dahl’s classic story, “The Magic Finger”.

At approximately just under 60 pages (depending on the edition you choose), the book is short and simple to read, so it suits an adult reading to a child, or a child starting out to read on their own equally well.

The story is really a story about animal cruelty and feeling empathy for others.

The unnamed narrator of the story is “girl” who is eight years old and lives on a farm. She has a “magic finger” that, when she is angry, she can use to place curses on other people. She also has a deep love of animals and a clear anger management issue when it comes to animal welfare. Hence she explodes with anger when she says the Gregg family, her neighbours, proudly returning from a deer hunting exhibition one afternoon.

Unfortunately for the Gregg family girl “puts the magic finger on them all”. That evening, as girl watches to find out what the consequences of the magic finger’s curse will be, she watches as the family go and hunt and kill a family of ducks.

The following day the Greggs wake up to find they have undergone an unexpected transformation. The have all shrunk to the size of ducks and have wings instead of arms.

After  much shock, and also some initial excitement by the children, who can now fly, the family is evicted from their house by a family of ducks. These ducks have grown to the size of humans and have arms instead of wings. They are related to the unfortunate ducks shot by the hunters the day before.

The result is that the Gregg’s have to fend for themselves, much like a real duck family in the wild. They have to build their own shelter (nest), somehow protect their children from hunters and feed themselves. All of this without being able to use their hands, which are now feathers.

The climax of the story is a confrontation between the ducks now living in the house and the Gregg family. However, there is a happy ending. When the Gregg’s agree to no longer hunt the ducks, both families revert back to their former selves and live amicably.

Of course, this is all written with Roald Dahl’s usual ability to transform the ridiculous into a storyline that children identify with and enjoy. Like all Dahl’s books, it has a sense of fun and cheekiness.

Great if you want a quick read.

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