What is the book about?
For those who don’t yet know, a well-known candymaker has gone off the grid for a long time, but is reopening his factory to a lucky few. If you find a golden ticket in your chocolate bar, you’ve won a tour of the factory. The winners include greedy Augustus, spoiled Veruca, gum-chewer Violet, and TV fan Mike, but there’s also Charlie. Charlie comes from a poor family and doesn’t have much, but he’s about to get more than he ever dreamed.
How did I discover it?
Picture this. It’s 2005. You’re at your classroom library having just finished your independent reading book. You need a new choice. Choices are primarily:
*dated-feeling novels about kids living in super-rural America
*starring Chosen Ones in fantasy-based Middle Eastern environments
*starring kids who had wacky (but not wacky enough to be exciting or outlandish; more wacky in a “nontraditional” sense) relatives
*escapist classics like Anne of Green Gables, again in rural areas
*tales about kids traveling to Europe to find themselves or visit wacky (“nontraditional”) relatives, again usually rural (Rural settings were the “missing dad” trope of the 90s/early 2000s…they were EVERYWHERE.)
*kids living with strict grandparents, also often probably in rural areas
This was my problem. Kids today should thank their lucky stars that they have the book choices they do. And I had some good, modern-feeling series too…Junie B Jones, Abby Hayes, etc. But when it came to actual classroom choices, stories were more stuffy. While many of these books are fine, reading started to become the same thing over and over again. And then you come across Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Suddenly you’re not in the farm fields of the USA, but in a wacky factory. The kids are interesting rather than somewhat flawed do-gooders of my fifth grade books.
What do I like about the book?
If you’ve never read a Roald Dahl book, you should! His narration style is unlike any other. It’s very conversational and includes a lot of entertaining comments. It’s just a fun, exciting read that doesn’t try to impress you with prose. Dahl does not talk down to his readers and adults will find things to like too.
And it’s just a fun adventure. For the first time in a while, I was excited for reading time to see what would happen next and see what surprises were around the corner. [I liked James and the Giant Peach for many of the same reasons (my first grade teacher read it to us), but I haven’t read that book in so long that I’m not touching on it this series.] The characters were well-drawn, and I loved the grandparents. Finally, a kooky relative that wasn’t gruff or out of touch! Yes, I do like Grandpa Joe. Fight me.
The enjoyment also is in the reading of the prose. Reading detailed descriptions of the factory. Listening to Grandpa Joe talk about the wacky Prince Pondicherry. And there’s a good lesson to top it off. Granted, readers know what’s coming, but it’s presented in a really interesting way.
Digging deeper into the fandom
There is actually some really good fan fiction for the novel out there. In high school, I came across a particularly good one where each character was driving home in a taxi and describes their interactions with the driver. If I come across it again, I’ll post it here.
You might also find yourself torn between the two films and this has sparked debate. I personally like the original from the 70s. People complain that the original deviates too much, but I’d argue that the Depp version deviates even more (I find that most differences in the original are pretty minor and the things that they do change work very well with the movie).
Another way I see the fandom popping up is through Grandpa Joe hate groups on social media. The premise is that Grandpa is this lazy guy who pretends to be unable to get up until he gets chocolate or wins a golden ticket. But I’m inclined to disagree!
Favorite memory involving the books
Honestly, just reading it during silent reading time at school. Sometimes my best friend and I would poke each other and show the other a funny line or scene. I remember doing that here too. One particular day was a photo retake day for me, and I was miffed that I’d have to miss reading time to go retake my photo. As I said, it was a book that was different and that I really looked forward to reading.
My thoughts about the book now
It’s just an enjoyable today as it is now. Because the author doesn’t really talk down to people, these nostalgic stories have staying power.
Check out more books from my childhood: