Monday, April 20, 2020

52. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl. 1964. 155 pages. [Source: Library] [J fiction; j fantasy; children's classic]

First sentence: These two very old people are the father and mother of Mr. Bucket. Their names are Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine. And these two very old people are the father and mother of Mrs. Bucket. Their names are Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina. This is Mr. Bucket. This is Mrs. Bucket. Mr. and Mrs. Bucket have a small boy whose name is Charlie Bucket. This is Charlie. How d'you do? And how d'you do? And how d'you do again? He is pleased to meet you.

 Premise/plot: Mr. Willy Wonka, an eccentric candy-maker, opens up his candy factory for one day only to five lucky golden-ticket-holders in Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Buckets are poor--an understatement. The Buckets are starving. Will Charlie's luck turn around after finding a ticket?

The book is quirky, delightful, and full of messages or morals. These messages aren't exactly hidden, they are obvious, especially in the lyrics of the songs. For example, Mike Teavee's song. No reader could miss that message! Is it a message for children or parents?!

"The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all the shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK–HE ONLY SEES!
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic takes
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy–Winkle and–
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole–
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
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 hears. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,
We very much regret that we
Shall simply have to wait and see
If we can get him back his height.
But if we can't–it serves him right."
My thoughts: What do I love about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl? Everything. This is one of my childhood favorites. (I don't know how many times--more than two less than six--I probably read this one growing up.) But I recently, last week, read it for the Book to Movie Challenge. I loved the story. I loved the characters. (Especially Charlie and Grandpa Joe.) I loved the humor. Those oompa-loompa songs are just too much fun! I loved the illustrations. (For the record, the illustrations were by Joseph Schindelman). So when I said everything, I meant everything.

For the few that may not be familiar with the story, Charlie Bucket is a young boy, a poor boy, who wins a Golden Ticket--one of five--and is allowed into the ever-so-mysterious chocolate factory owned by Willy Wonka. Why is it so mysterious? The factory closed down years ago--spies in the company selling secrets--and it reopened years later. But no one ever goes in or out of the factory. The gates remain closed. Who are these "mystery" workers? Is Wonka as 'out there' as he seems?

I love the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie as well. The new one. Not that dreadful, dreadful one. Why? It follows the book better. It capture the *essence* of the book. It has the heart and soul of the original even if they change a few details now and then. What do I love most about the movie? A lot of the dialogue comes straight from the book. Not all of it. But enough that when you reread the book you see examples on practically every page. The songs especially are authentic to the book. When you read the book, you hear the songs from this movie. They have brought it to life. What they added to the movie that wasn't in the book was the fact that Willy Wonka's father was a dentist and that they had a strained relationship was an odd twist. In the movie, he had a reluctance to embrace families. He was a loner. In the book, he didn't have this 'odd' quirk and was more than willing to embrace the whole Bucket family from the start. Even though the movie didn't get it quite right at the end, they redeemed it enough where I could accept it.

Do I love Charlie and the Glass Elevator? No. Not really. Not at all. But the first one is classic. It's an unforgettable rags-to-riches story of a deserving boy who finally gets a break.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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