Saturday, December 20, 2014

Book Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket, #1)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl


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Recommended to Stacy by: everyone
Recommended for: everyone
Read from November 06 to December 20, 2014 — I own a copy

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is such a wonderfully whimsical children's classic. I grew up watching the Gene Hackmanversion of the film, and I was one of the few people alive who actually enjoyed the Johnny Depp version, but shockingly, I never remember reading the book version! In fact, to be equally shockingly honest, I don't remember reading any Roald Dahl books growing up. Now, I might have read them or had them read to me, but I honestly don't remember them at all. So when it came reading books with my own children, I am trying to read as many of the classics as they will tolerate. And I was not disappointed at all with this one.

I am quite sure that most everyone knows the basic premise of the book, and in all honesty, both movie versions were fairly true to the novel; there weren't many differences in the book version. But I did notice that both movies added to the basic premise, and if I evaluate the films based on their additions, I have more issues with the Hackman version than I do with the Depp version, surprisingly! Most people I know detest the Depp version because Wonka was so strange, and they use only one actor to represent all of the oompa-loompas, which was pretty annoying. But even the addition of the dentist father only seemed to enrich the backstory of Willy Wonka, and it didn't drastically change the basic plot line that Dahl puts forth in his book.

However, the Hackman version, the version I grew up knowing and loving, like everyone else, actually added a MAJOR change that alters the very soul of the book, and now having read the original source material, this addition IRKS me a lot! Now if you haven't seen the Hackman .movie, I'm going to include a bit of a spoiler here (but in all honesty, who hasn't seen the Hackman version? And if you haven't seen it, you were robbed of an adequate childhood and should complain fervently to your parents!) In the Gene Hackman version, there is a scene when Charlie and his Grandpa Joe sample fizzy bubble soda and float up to the fan in the ceiling. At the end of the movie, Wonka (played by Hackman) reprimands Charlie and his Grandpa for breaking the rules. Then Charlie gives back the Everlasting Gobstopper, so Wonka forgives him. I remember, when I was young, watching this scene and thinking that all kids make mistakes, but if you tell the truth, it will gain you forgiveness - oh, what a sweet moral.

But that scene isn't in the book at ALL (I know that Wonka does mention the fizzy bubble soda in the book and an oompa-loompa does float up to the ceiling [much like in Despicable Me], but in the book Charlie and Grandpa Joe never drink any of it)! And it should NOT HAVE BEEN ADDED to the movie! Because it wasn't Dahl's intention to make Charlie a bad child who breaks rules. Dahl, I believe, wanted children to see that good children are the ones who win in the end - you shouldn't need forgiveness because you should stay good all the time! And I like this book version so much better - stay golden! That would be what Dahl would have said: Stay golden & one day you will be rewarded! But the movie, the classic movie that we were all raised on, goes and changes that! Why???

I remember watching the Johnny Depp version the first time and wondering why they cut the fizzy soda scene out, and now I know why: it's because it wasn't in the book! And even though the dentist father isn't in the book, either, the dentist father addition doesn't change Dahl's central message. In fact it sort of strengthens Dahl's message: In the Depp version, Wonka goes back to his father and still has perfect teeth. Even though his dad didn't want him to eat candy, Wonka kept his father's teaching at heart by maintaining good dental health, even if he doesn't floss enough. And the dad was proud of Wonka in this version: he kept all of Wonka's newspaper clippings. This addition, while not in the book, doesn't really bother me much because it doesn't corrupt Charlie, and only serves to make Wonka appear more human (even if Depp does make for a quirky Wonka). But the "Stay Golden" message isn't ruined.

The book really wants kids to see a good version of a child, who even though he is poor and starving, he is still golden at heart and deserves to be rewarded in the end. I like this message a lot: it's always best to be good.

I loved reading this book with my boys. I highly recommend it to any child, and now I realize why it is considered such a classic. It's not too long; the chapters are short and manageable; there is some new vocabulary which is great for my kids to learn; and it's message is pure. I look forward to reading more Dahl classics with my boys.

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