Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a personal favorite and I recently read it to a group of rambunctious second graders. It was the only quiet half hour our class enjoyed each day.
Although I'm a big fan of the movie, it bears no resemblance to the book. So I love the movie for its songs and its joy (not for the Child Catcher or Baron Bomburst), and I love the book for it's sly humor (which the film captures wonderfully via Dick Van Dyke as Commander Potts).
In the book Caractacus Potts not only transforms a junkyard car into a gleaming driving machine, he also discovers the hideout of a famous gangster, Joe the Monster, and has various run-ins with him and his gang of ruffians. I especially like Fleming's attitude toward his young readers. For the skeptics he offers semi-believable solutions to Chitty's antics, but to the ready-to-believe-anything crowd, he offers up fantastic possibilities.
One example: Fortunately Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang had smelt trouble. Heaven knows how, but there it is. There was much about this magical car that even Commander Pott couldn't understand. All I can say is that , as the gangster's low black roadster stole away down the moonlit streets, perhaps its movement jolted something or made some electrical connection in the mysterious insides of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, but anyway there was the tiny soft whirr of machinery, hardly louder than the buzz of a mosquito, and behind the ornament on the hood, a small antenna, like a wireless aerial, rose softly, and began to swivel after the gangster's car, which was now hurtling up the great main road towards Paris.
A lovely read-aloud!