Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryTitle:  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Author:  Roald Dahl

Paperback:  176 pages

Published:  1964

ISBN:  0140328696

acquired:  I bought it at our St. Vincent DePaul thrift store.

Challenges:  Welsh Reading Challenge

“I stood there shouting, ‘Burp, you silly ass, burp, or you’ll never come down again!” -Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, page 112

For me, this was either my second or third reading of Roald Dahl‘s children’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  I remember reading it a few years ago with the kids, but I’m not sure if I read it by myself as a kid.  But whatever the number of reads, it is easy to say this book is fantastic fun… especially to read aloud with a child.  As Mags and I read it, we took breaks at the departure of each child to watch the particular scene from the Tim Burton’s movie adaptation (and occasionally from the Gene Wilder version, as well). 

Most people know the basic premise of the story:  Charlie Bucket and his family are very poor, barely having enough money for food, let alone candy.  Little Charlie gets one chocolate bar a year for his birthday, which is falls a few days after Willy Wonka, greatest candy-maker EVER, announces that he has placed a golden ticket in just FIVE of his candies, and these tickets will grant the winning child and up to two parents entry into his mysterious and fantastic factory, as well as a lifetime supply of chocolate.  Charlie and Grandpa Joe hold out hope that they have just as much chance to get a ticket as anyone, and when the first four tickets are found by beastly, spoiled, selfish children, they almost give up.  But then Charlie spots a dollar bill half buried in the snow, and rushes to buy a couple of Wonka’s Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delights, saving the rest of the money for his family, and finds the ticket in the second bar. 

Roald Dahl creates a world in which children aren’t safe, which I think appeals to kids because they DON’T feel safe.  In their particular position, they’re subject to the whims and fancies of the adults around them and have very little control over their lives.  Readers, particularly young readers, see these over-indulged children who get everything they want which, at first blush, is something most kids would love.  However, as the book progresses, we watch as each child suffers an accident which their own self-centeredness is a direct cause.  Violet rips the meal-in-a-gum from the drawer and chews it, ignoring Wonka’s warnings, and ends up a giant blueberry.  Veruca Salt refuses to take NO for an answer, in fact is inflamed by being told she can’t have one of Wonka’s squirrels, and goes in the nut room to claim one anyone, ending up tossed into the garbage chute by leader of the squirrels who judges her to be a “bad nut”.  In the end it is the considerate and well-behaved Charlie who is rewarded.  Even when Dahl shows the children leaving the factory in one piece, they are still not escaping unscathed, but instead will retain some scarring for the rest of their lives.  Violet, for instance, is still purple, while Mike Teavee has been over-stretched and is now very tall and thin, about whom Wonka makes an almost-callous remark that every basketball team in the country will want him.  I think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory could fit in the fable category, as it is a cautionary tale with a lesson.

The best part of this book, in my opinion, was cuddling up with Maggie, who is ten and won’t let me do this much longer.  She’s in her last semester of Elementary school and will, no doubt, be “too cool” to lay in bed, snuggling and being read to by her mom.  Part of the book was also read at the library, which drew attention from a few people, which gave Mags the chance to tell them about the book.  I will always have warm memories of this book, which was even good enough to draw my 15-year-old into the room for her favorite part, which is the quote I included.  For all these things, and for making me fee like a kid again while reading it, I give Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl 5 out of 5 candy stars 🙂

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This book is my first book read for The Welsh Reading Challenge 2010.  Roald Dahl was born in Llandaff, Wales, which is part of the Cardiff cosmopolitan area.  Roald Dahl day is September 13th, his birthday, every year. Check out The Official Roald Dahl website where you can learn more about the author, his books and even play games.  Mags and I did the Wonkanator, a math game, and the “find the differences” game for a while this morning before she left for school, taking the book with her.

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The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Looking Glass WarsTitle:  The Looking Glass Wars

Author:  Frank Beddor

Hardback:  364 pages

ISBN:  0803731531

From the website:

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges the world’s Carrollian Wonderland assumptions of tea parties, dormice and a curious little blonde girl to reveal an epic, cross dimensional saga of love, murder, betrayal, revenge and the endless war for Imagination. Meet the heroic, passionate, monstrous, vengeful denizens of this parallel world as they battle each other with AD-52’s and orb generators, navigate the Crystal Continuum, bet on jabberwock fights and slip each other the poisonous pink mushroom. Finally, someone got it right. This ain’t no fairytale.

Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, was forced to flee through the Pool of Tears after a bloody palace coup staged by the murderous Redd shattered her world. Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author to whom she tells the surreal, violent, heartbreaking story of her young life only to see it published as the nonsensical children’s sojourn Alice in Wonderland. Alyss had trusted Lewis Carroll to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere would find her and bring her home.

But Carroll had got it all wrong. He even misspelled her name! If not for the intrepid Hatter Madigan, a member of the Millinery (Wonderland’s security force) who after a 13 year search eventually tracked Alyss to London, she may have become just another society woman sipping tea in a too-tight bodice instead of returning to Wonderland to battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

I found the concept of The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddorto be utterly fascinating.  What if Alice Liddel as the Reverend Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) had been telling the truth:  She was the rightful heir to the Wonderland throne, exiled to England while her black imagination-practicing aunt Redd ruled by ursurption.  What if, in telling Dodgson, she had been hoping the book he’d write would prove her credible, but instead he’d took her for only being highly imaginative and had twisted her tale until it barely resembled the truth.

Unfortunately, either because I’m just not enough of a Wonderland fan, or I wasn’t in the right mood for the book, I found I couldn’t get into it.  I can’t say what I found “wrong” with it, can’t say what I’d wish more for or less of.  The writing is more than worthy, the concept imaginative, and it has sparked a bit of hatred from die-hard Carrollians, but it just didn’t grab me.  It has everything I like, fantasy, adventure, maybe it could’ve used more humor.  It is a mystery why it missed the target with me.

I would recommend it to anyone who likes both the Alice books and darker stories.  There are also sequels to this book, as well as one of Hatter Madigan’s tale.  I’m satisfied that my adventures in the Looking Glass Wars is ended, personally, but I will probably watch the movie when it comes out, which doesn’t seem to be planned at the moment, but I’m sure there will be one someday. 

I give The Looking Glass Wars  by Frank Beddor 3 out of 5 stars.  It just didn’t do anything for me, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it.

Here’s a trailer for the book: