Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

by Roald Dahl | 155 pgs, published 1964

Evan and I recently read The Twits together. When I put it back on the shelf after we finished, I realized I own a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but had never actually read it. Also, I had a paper to write, so of course I sat down to read it immediately.

If you’ve never heard of it (!), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about a boy named Charlie Bucket who lives near the famous Willy Wonka chocolate factory. One day, Mr. Wonka announces that 5 children will be allowed to come tour the factory and receive a lifetime supply of chocolate – the lucky children will be those who find the golden tickets Mr. Wonka has hidden inside candy bar wrappers. Charlie, of course, ends up being one of the lucky 5.

I’m going to assume that you’ve heard of Roald Dahl, at least enough to be familiar with the sorts of books he wrote.

I loved the first third of the book. The description of Charlie and his family falling deeper into poverty was really well done, and made me feel desperate! It was just the right amount of seriousness for a children’s book – I was glad it neither crossed the line into “too heavy” nor treated the situation too lightly. Unfortunately, I spent the rest of the book feeling lectured. Who wants that? From a children’s book?

If you’ve read the book or seen either version of the movie, you know that Mr. Wonka wants to pass on his factory (spoiler! Sorry!) to the least obnoxious of the 5 kids. So the terrible habits of 4 kids are highlighted: gluttony, being spoiled, chewing gum, and watching TV. I wouldn’t say I have problems in any of those areas – but nonetheless, I felt chastised and reprimanded. Maybe Mr. Wonka went too far; a piece of gum every once in a while is probably fine, right? And watching a little TV should be okay.

The plot itself was interesting, and the writing was wonderful, as Roald Dahl usually is; but the lectures were far less fun as poems than as Oompa-Loompa songs set to music. (Thanks for the creepy eyes, Johnny Depp.)

I’d choose other Dahl books over this, notably The Twits and Matilda, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a classic, so you might read it on those grounds. Or you might not.

P.S. I know it’s okay to disagree on things, but Jarom doesn’t like the Quentin Blake illustrations. GASP!

Buy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Amazon


The Alchemyst

by Michael Scott | 375 pgs, published 2007

I’d heard of this book quite a bit before I finally got in on my Kindle on the drive to a family reunion last summer. I made it about 10 pages in before I decided I hated it, a lot, and didn’t feel like finishing.

Then I decided I might as well try again, since I paid for it.

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel centers around not only Nicholas Flamel but 15-year-old twins Sophie and Josh. The twins live in a seemingly ordinary world until they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – or, if it’s destiny, the right place and time. So they are thrust into a magical world that includes

every

single

myth or legend

in the history of the western world. And a few from the rest of the world as well.

I was not a fan. The plot felt forced, and it obviously wasn’t engrossing. The writing was mediocre. Someone please explain why the author has written 6 of these books and gotten a movie deal? And make sure your explanation includes “most people have terrible taste in books.”

I can’t think of a reason to recommend this, especially when there are so many other great books out there waiting for you to read them.

Buy The Alchemyst on Amazon