Bond. James Bond.
Otto. Sarah Otto.
That’s been our house for the past few months, as Sarah has pursued a new interest in James Bond, as evidenced by the growing collection of books and movies you see here.
But of even more interest to me (because, you know, I’m a words person) is the life of Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, whose birthday would have been this month. I’m joining some of the other iHomeschool Network bloggers for a celebration of some noted May birthdays, and Fleming was my top pick!
All about Ian Fleming
If you ask Sarah about Ian Fleming, she can tell you what she considers the coolest fact about him: His middle name is Lancaster.
Fleming was born May 28, 1908, in London, England, and died Aug. 12, 1964. He was as much a renaissance man as his famous character, dabbling in all SORTS of things.
- In college, Fleming was an excellent track-and-field athlete.
- After quitting school while pursuing higher education, Fleming became a journalist for the Reuters news service.
- He was known to be good at languages, including Russian.
- He dabbled in banking and stockbrokering at the insistence of his family.
- Fleming served in the British Naval Intelligence during World War II.
- He worked for the London Times newspaper for many years.
- And, like his character, Fleming was known as quite a ladies’ man (and a rather heavy drinker and smoker).
Another interesting tidbit: Fleming’s vacation home in Jamaica, where he wrote many of the the Bond novels? He had named it Goldeneye, which although iconic in the Bond film collection, was not ever a Bond book title!
All about James Bond
Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale, was completed in 1952 and published the next year. Between that time and Fleming’s death in 1964, he wrote 14 James Bond books, two of which were published posthumously.
So, why Bond? This video shows Ian Fleming on camera, talking about how the name for his hero came to be.
When Fleming died, he was only 56 years old and had only been able to see a handful of the movies made from his character and his stories. In fact, the latest James Bond actor, Daniel Craig, wasn’t even born until 1968!
I certainly didn’t know that Ian Fleming had done much of lingering renown beyond the James Bond series. Even my movie- and book-loving husband couldn’t come up with anything else.
But guess what I found out?
Fleming was also the creator of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which he wrote as a children’s story for his son, Casper, shortly before his death! You can read more about that story on the official Ian Fleming website here.
Read more about Ian Fleming (and James Bond)
Many of the facts I’ve shared today came courtesy of a book Sarah bought just before her birthday: James Bond FAQ by Tom DeMichael.
This isn’t a kids’ book – it goes into detail about Fleming, as well as all the Bond movies, the Bond girls, the weapons and more. We think that the best thing to do is talk about issues like that, not ignore them, and it’s sparked some amazing discussions with Sarah, including her notes about things that kids and parents should know about Skyfall, her current favorite movie.
Meanwhile, if you want to read more, here are some websites that have helped us explore Fleming and Bond!
- Ian Fleming’s biography on Wikipedia
- Official Ian Fleming website
- The Ian Fleming Foundation (essentially a preservationist group that has, for example, purchased the Bond cars from film for use in traveling exhibits)
- Fleming’s IMDB bio
- Full list of James Bond novels and short stories, both by Ian Fleming and by others using the canonical characters after his death
Ideas for discussion
If you think your kids would probably love the action of James Bond but you’re concerned about the more adult themes, like violence, sex and drinking, definitely consider pre-screening the movies (and the books!) in advance.
But don’t write them off – there are a ton of great topics for discussion from both Ian Fleming’s novels and the Bond movies.
We’ve had great conversations on many of the following:
- Geographic locations. James Bond is a world traveler! With either the books or the movies or both, keeping a travel log and finding the places he visits on a globe or map, then learning more about them, is a great way to explore the world.
- Time-period culture. Sarah has watched both some of the oldest Bond films, like Goldfinger, as well as the newest, Skyfall, and it’s fascinating to see how some things have become more acceptable, but others less. (And the clothes, cars and furniture make for interesting side conversations, too!)
- Moral issues. Sarah gets that “real-life” good guys don’t go around doing certain things with a girl in every town. She’s also bright enough to pick up on the plot device that the girls provide – and we’ve even talked about the evolution of women in film! We’ve also talked about Bond’s drinking, and again, how that becomes a plot point in the stories.
- Governmental regulation. In Skyfall especially, but as we’ve dug deeper, we’ve seen this in other movies and books too – the question of “What is the government’s role in our lives?” We’ve also been watching the Mission Impossible franchise, and the same question arises: Do we want the government to keep us safe? What is it OK – and not OK – for them to do? These have been some fascinating conversations!
Join the birthday party
If you’re interested, there are many more cool “May birthday” lessons from my fellow iHomeschool Network bloggers. Click the image below to check them out!
And thanks for stopping by to help me wish Ian Fleming a (posthumous) happy birthday in thanks for all the fun times he’s brought our family!
More great history resources
This post is part of the iHomeschool Network Massive Guide to Homeschooling History.
Make sure to check it out for tons of other great history resources, including links to a dozen more Unschool Rules posts!