A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a classic children's book about five kids who win a chance to tour Willy Wonka's mysterious candy-making operation. It's a vividly told wild ride with amusing, cartoon-like sketches that will keep kids excited and laughing. Various forms of bad behavior are demonstrated -- but the punishments perfectly fit the crimes. The main character also lives a life of poverty that's portrayed as bleak and depressing, although the love between him and his family makes their day-to-day struggles more bearable. The book was adapted for a film titled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971, and made into a movie titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Johnny Depp, in 2005. That same year, it was released as an audiobook read by Monty Python member Eric Idle, which is loads of fun.
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What's the story?
Poor Charlie Bucket is practically starving to death, but his luck changes for the better when he wins a lifetime supply of candy -- and a chance to visit Willy Wonka's fabulous, top-secret chocolate factory. This charming, irreverent tale, one of Roald Dahl's best, has captivated children for more decades. Five lucky people who find a Golden Ticket wrapped in one of Willy Wonka's wonderful candy bars win a visit to his mysterious chocolate factory. Charlie Bucket is too poor to buy more than one candy bar a year, so when he wins a ticket, his whole family celebrates. The four other lucky children are not as nice as Charlie, and they're punished for their bad behavior. Greedy Augustus Gloop falls into the chocolate river he's trying to drink from and gets sucked up a pipe. Chewing-gum addict Violet Beauregarde grabs a stick of gum that blows her up into a giant blueberry. Spoiled Veruca Salt is deemed a "bad nut" by Wonka's trained squirrels and thrown in the garbage. And Mike Teavee demands to be "sent by television" and gets shrunk in the process. But there's a wonderful surprise waiting for Charlie at the end of the tour.
Is it any good?
Rarely, if ever, has a morality tale been dressed up in such an entertaining story. Roald Dahl clearly has a point to make here, but never does the reader feel he is preaching; he's just reveling in giving spoiled kids their most perfectly just comeuppance. Dahl has peopled these pages with some highly memorable bad children, and readers everywhere love to laugh with glee at their crazy behavior -- and its consequences.
In the best fairy tale tradition, Dahl doesn't hide the fact that the world can be a grim and unfair place. Charlie's depressing life of poverty at the beginning of the novel reflects this bleak view. But, also in the best fairy tale tradition, Dahl appeals to the strong sense of natural justice in children, and invites them to revel in a marvelously imagined world where people, both good and bad, get exactly what they deserve. It's also a place where they make "eatable marshmallow pillows," "hot ice cream for cold days," "fizzy lifting drinks" that make you float, and "rainbow drops" that let you "spit in six different colours." And, in the end, it's just the place for Charlie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the various children who win the right to tour the chocolate factory and how their flaws ultimately seal their fates.
What are your first impressions of Willy Wonka? Do you change your opinion about him over the course of the book?
Even though Charlie wasn't completely innocent, why was he chosen to run the factory in the end?
If you were given the opportunity to see your favorite candy maker's factory headquarters, how would you behave?
Who would you take with you as your special guest?
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