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, and are punished in ways that perfectly fit the crimes. Charlie 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?
In Roald Dahl's CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, poor Charlie Bucket is practically starving. However, he is rich in love, living with his devoted parents and grandparents so old and sick they never get out of bed. Charlie is captivated by his Grandpa Joe's stories about Willy Wonka's mysterious chocolate factory and his efforts to keep his amazing recipes from leaking to other candy-makers. Charlie is excited when Wonka holds a contest, placing a golden ticket in five chocolate bars; each person who finds a ticket will get to bring a special guest along and visit the factory, and receive a lifetime supply of sweets! Charlie is too poor to buy more than one candy bar a year, so when he wins a ticket, his whole family celebrates. Charlie visits the chocolate factory along with four bratty children: greedy Augustus Gloop, chewing gum addict Violet Beauregarde, spoiled Veruca Salt, and television-obsessed Mike Teavee. What lies in store for the children depends on how they behave on their 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 Dahl also 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 a genius candy-maker invents "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?
Have you tried Wonka candies? Does reading this book make them more or less appealing to you?
- Author: Roald Dahl
- Illustrator: Joseph Schindelman
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Great Boy Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
- Publication date: January 17, 1964
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 176
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 15, 2020
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