The first book (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, my review) ended when Mr. Tooting accidentally yanked Chitty's chronojuster, sending the family hurtling back into the Cretaceous. Little Harry, the baby of the family, is thrilled to see his first T-Rex, but his sibling, Lucy and Jem, join their parents in a more adult reaction--terror. Fortunately they escape, but Chitty doesn't take them home to England....she has an agenda of her own, and takes them to New York in the 1920s.
There she seems determined to compete against her maker's newer, shinier car in a cross-continental road race. And the Tootings have no choice but to enjoy the ride, even when it takes them to the lost city of El Dorado in the Amazonian jungle...but in the meantime, the stage is being set for Tiny Jack to reveal his true, twisted, identity....and will the Tootings ever get home again? (and will Chitty win her race?).
In a nutshell: fun time-travelling adventure. Adjectives that could be used include "fresh" "bright" "zesty" and "absurd." It is pleasantly absurd, without coming close to farce, even when little Henry's T-Rex egg hatches in New York city. Numerous black and white illustrations add to the fun--I love the one of Chitty flying through the skyscraper canyons of Manhattan.
What makes this book particularly nice is that the Tootings are a family who care about each other--rare is it to see the mother and father along for the ride. It's also nice that the Tootings are a multi-racial family. This isn't mentioned in the text, and has no bearing on the story, but they are shown as such in the interior pictures.
This isn't clear on the cover though, where Mrs. Tooting is only a teensy bit browner than her family--pity.
So if you are looking for fun fantastic adventure to share with a 7-10 year old who hasn't lost his heart to to High Fantasy/Talking Animals on Quests/Mythological Creatures (naming no names, but looking right at my own 10 year old), you could do far worse than to fly through time and space with Chitty!