Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, by Frank Cottrel Boyce, illustrated by Joe Berger (Candlewick, 2012, upper elementary/middle grade, 192 pages)
The Tootings (mother, father, Lucy, Jem, and the baby, little Harry) were a normal English family, with a normal English car. This all changed when Mr. Tooting lost his job...and the car that went with it. But when Mrs. Tooting brings home a derelict camper van, the Tooting family embarks on an adventure more fantastic than they could have dreamt.
Dad and Jem get the camper van running again, and supply Lucy with the black paint she needs to make her corner of it feel homey. And they set off to see the world. But first, they stop at a local salvage yard with an extraordinary past, and find a new engine for the van--one of incredible power, though it has to be started with a hand crank. When it gets going, it becomes clear that this new incarnation of the van has a mind of its own...and it can fly. Not only that, but it is a van on a mission!
Soon the Tooting family is zooming off to Paris, spending some quality time on the tip of the Eiffel tower,where the old engine is reunited with its original headlights. Next stop, Egypt...where the original wheels ended up. But Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as the van is now called, has attracted the attention of unscrupulous, fabulously wealthy bad guys! There is Danger! Brushes with Death! and finally, a daring escape....
It's lots of fun, made more so by the cheerful illustrations of Joe Berger (I especially liked the drawing of how everything fit into the camper van! The bad guys are over the top, but heck, if you can enjoy and accept a flying car searching for its missing pieces, what are a few implausible bad guys. The Tooting family are all nicely distinct people--fun and quirky and occasionally difficult.
In short, it's a fun, fast book that's both a lovely homage to the first book (which is more enjoyable than the movie!) and a fine read in its own right.
Note 1: it turns out that Chitty can do more than fly--we learn at the end of the book that she also has a Chronojuster, and it still works. So I almost counted this as a time travel book...but that really seems to be another story, which I hope is forthcoming.
Note 2: it's not mentioned in the text, and has no bearing on the Story, but the Tooting family happens to be multiracial--Mrs. Tooting is shown in the illustrations with dark skin, Mr. Tooting with white, and the kids fall in between. Yay! Another book for my multicultural sci fi/fantasy list.