Usually when I need to give my brain a break I go to my childhood favorites. This time I picked up Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. This book has always appealed to me for many reasons, not the least of which is the idea of endless chocolate. Ready to go on a wild ride? As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Story - The main story was pretty straight forward, a cautionary tale for children. This is the type of story that tells you if you behave you can inherit a chocolate factory :-) It also had a good punch of humor and straight up crazy which is always a plus for me. Keeping in mind that this is an old school MG book I think the story kept a good balance between cheeky and a morality tale.
Character - The main characters were all pretty stock style characters, but this was done on purpose to illustrate a point, so I will give the kids a pass on this one. I do however love Veruca Salt not for any real reason, I just do. I also really enjoy Grandpa Joe's spunkyness and his ability to take quiet Charlie on this great adventure. Of course my absolute favorite character is Willy Wonka. Just his name makes me smile, but what I really love is his sheer eccentricness. He is the perfect mix of creative, dreamy, responsible, compassionate, logical and bat sh*t crazy. I love everything about him.
Editing - This was a pretty simple and straight forward book told in a simple and straight forward way. Not a lot to say about the editing other then it was fine. Also there a bunch of really weird, scary yet fitting illustrations by Quentin Blake that add the perfect touch to this book.
Parents - The children in this book all had very obvious flaws that caused their downfall, but what I thought was interesting and very cool was that the book was very clear that the reason the children had gotten as bad as they were was the fault of the parents. We see multiple times where the parents could have brought their precious darlings to heel, but instead indulged and defended them. It's good to know that the author at least knew where bad kids come from...bad parents. In contrast Charlie's family was responsible and loving and had trained Charlie so well he didn't even need his parents at factory, instead he go his spunky Grandpa Joe.
Imagination - I like how this book inspires imagination. There are a couple well explained rooms and candies, but most are just hinted at. I like this because it gives the reader a chance to imagine what all the different things could be, or look like, or taste like. The lay out of the book also hints at almost endless possibilities, making this a great book to read with your kids or nephews and nieces or whoever because it leaves a ton of open ended conversations. Even the "punishments" that the naughty kids get are creative, and in the end not permanent.
Movies - I can't mention this book without talking about the movies. There is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder as the title character, and the later Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp at Willy Wonka. Now I adore Johnny Depp and I know that to some degree Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is more faithful to the book, but I mostly find it a tad too creepy for my taste. The Gene Wilder version on the other hand is one of my favorite movies ever! While it definitely does not follow the book word for word it most definitely keeps the spirit of the book to the fullest extant. It will probably come as no surprise to anybody that my favorite scene is the World of Pure Imagination song/scene. Also I feel that Gene Wilder captures the person of Willy Wonka perfectly.
Overall Impression - I very much enjoy this book, I feel it is entirley age appropriate, not overly complicated or angsty and is perfect for reading with a younger person. I feel it encourages conversation and imagination and pretty much recommend it to everybody. I give it 8 out of 10 everlasting gobstoppers and am now going to go watch the movie and eat some chocolate. Happy Reading Everybody!!!