Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A perennial favorite. I grew up in the 1980s and the Gene Wilder movie version (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) was something that I remember with great fondness. But you know what? I never read the book until a few months ago when I decided that J might enjoy it if we read it together. Turns out that we both loved it!
As a child, I did not read much by Dahl. I do remember reading and loving James and the Giant Peach, but that is about it. Regardless, in an effort to let J see a wider variety of the types of books out there, I hit upon this.
Everyone knows the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Young Charlie Bucket is very poor and when Willy Wonka runs a contest to actually get to see the chocolate factory that he walks by every day, he of course wants to win. Charlie miraculously gets the final of 5 golden tickets and takes his grandfather to the factory with him. The 4 other children are devious, self-serving children that are caricatures of some of the awful behavior that we often see in children – Augustus Gloop (gluttony), Veruca Salt (greed), Violet Beauregarde (the need to always be first), and Mike Teavee (addicted to television).
I think this book stood out for us because it was just so different. The characters were larger than life and easy to understand – even a 6 year old gets that Veruca Salt is a spoiled brat. The scenes were also so full of imagery that it truly was as if Dahl was painting the scene for you. J loved to sing the oompa loompa songs, or poems as it were in the book, which made our readings rather entertaining. The songs themselves actually got incredibly long and could be didactic at times.
Normally when I read to J at night we either read 2 picture books or 2 chapters from a chapter book. We would get to the end of a chapter and she would beg me to read more. She read the entire book herself, but I think she enjoyed our nightly readings of it together as much as I did. She was even more thrilled when we found an old copy of the book that once belong to her uncle and is now hers.
For me, it was so interesting to see how the book differed from the movie. I thought that they were both fabulous in very different ways. What shocked me was to find how much Roald Dahl hated the Gene Wilder version of the the film. According to Wikipedia:
Roald Dahl disowned the film, the script of which was rewritten by David Seltzer, after Dahl failed to meet deadlines. Dahl said he was “disappointed” because “he thought it placed too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie,” as well as the non-casting of Milligan. He was also “infuriated” by the deviations in the plot Seltzer devised in his draft of the screenplay, including the conversion of Slugworth into a spy and the “belching” scene.
J hasn’t seen the movie yet, but I think that one of these days we’ll find a copy of it for her – the original, not the Johnny Depp version. I also might have to buy the CD 🙂
According to Scholastic.com, here is how they show reading level:
Interest Level – Grade 4-6 (younger kids will love it too)
Lexile – 810
Reading Level – 5.9
Guided Reading Level – R