The iconic Danny, The Champion of the World, a page-turning book for both adults and children, immersing you into the world of imagination, adventure, and what it means to have family. Meira Bienstock

BETHEL — Before Superintendent Dave Murphy was the superintendent at Telstar, he was a second grade teacher in Massachusetts. One day, their reading teacher handed him two books, saying she’d think he’d like to read them. The two novels were James and the Giant Peach, and the other Danny, the Champion of the World, both written by Roald Dahl.

“They were obviously a little difficult for a second grader to read, but very entertaining,” says Murphy. “So I started by reading James and the Giant Peach book out loud to my kids and they loved it, and then I read Danny, and I kinda just fell in love with the book…. at that point in time kids were mesmerized by it so it became a personal favorite, and then I moved on and I started teaching other grades, but I always read those two books to my kids.”

But Murphy did not stop with just the reading. He showed the students how far you could go if you put your mind to something. He had all his students write a letter to the famous author. And Dahl wrote back to every student.

“I would read the book to my kids, I would have them write him a letter,” Murphy says. “And so we would mail them to him. And he would always respond. We would always get a personalized letter back from him that was very short but sounded like a paragraph from out of one of his books. I can remember (the letters) were a short paragraph or two saying something like ‘Dear handsome David and all the wonderful children in your classroom,” and he went on to saying he was sitting in a caravan writing a story and a cow came and ate the curtain out of his window… and they’re all different, every single one of them is different [the letters]. It always seemed he took the time to write a paragraph to the kids. It was quite a connection.”

Murphy was also tantalized by the illustrations in the novels.

“Whenever I would read the book, I would walk around the classroom and share the illustrations with all the kids,” Murphy says. “They were a good team. I thought he did a good job telling a story and her illustrations really helped drive home the feeling of the book.”


Murphy found the illustrator of the two novels he had been reading, discovering her name was Jill Bennett. He emailed her. He told her how much his students liked the pictures as much as they liked the books. She emailed him back said it was good to hear from him, and she still had the originals. The original illustrations then got a renewed interests and from Murphy’s understanding were sold to a library or museum.

“But she made some prints and sent me a copy of a print, of one I particularly liked was that, Danny sitting on the stoop are their caravan where they lived waiting for his father to come back from a night [of] poaching pheasants.”

But Murphy’s impact does not stop there. When his students became adults, they held a gathering for him in Massachusetts.

“They had a reception so that was nice, a chance to gather people together, it was a fun day. It was interesting because a lot of them remembered Danny, The Champion of the World,” Murphy says smiling, before taking out a copy of Danny, The Champion of the World and smiling.

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