Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

charlieandthechocolatefactoryby Roald Dahl
First sentence: “These two very old people are the father and mother of Mr. Bucket.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s one swear word (which caught me off guard!), but other than that, it’s okay. It’s pretty basic and is in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read this; I’m not entirely sure when the last time I opened this one. Sure, I know the story, but I don’t know when I’ve interacted with the words last.

It’s weird. And kind of mean, if you think about it. Dahl sets up such an extreme: Charlie is beyond dirt poor and the others are so well off comparatively. Are Violet, Veruca, Augustus, and Mike spoiled, really? Or are they spoiled BECAUSE Charlie is their foil? He was such a crank, and that comes through loud and clear. The kids that aren’t Charlie are constantly in need of smacking, and Willy Wonka is downright rude to Mike Teavee often. Maybe he deserves it, and maybe it’s for humorous effect, but I was unsettled by it.

And what is Dahl trying to achieve here? Is he just telling a fantastical, weird story? Or does he have a POINT? (Maybe Mike Teavee’s song is the point:

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks —
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts.”)

Did I like it? Some of it, sure. I like that Dahl has a Seussian way with language, not letting non-existent words get in his way. But, I’m not sure I really care for this one (and the movies are both quite… weird) very much at all.

My book group discussion was pretty great. I had nine kids, the youngest was 5 (his mother was reading the books aloud to him; she came with as well) and the oldest were a couple of 10 year old boys who were almost too cool at first, but by the end were participating. We had a fun talk about favorite characters and themes and songs and what kind of candy they’d make (ones that looked like broccoli but tasted like candy!). And we designed our own golden tickets as we taste-tested chocolate.

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It was fun! Next up: Matilda.

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