Friday, June 12, 2009

REVIEW: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Dahl, R.  (1964).  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  New York:  Puffin Books.




This classic has a special place in my heart.  By reading this book, I first learned how to spell chocolate.  True story.


Reading it this time around, I was more inclined to eat chocolate while reading.  Also a true story.


I was also struck by how economically relevant this story is in the current recession.  Charlie Bucket and his family are poor.  His father loses his job at the toothpaste factory and the entire family is close to starving, that is of course, until Charlie is one of the five children to find a golden ticket in his Wonka candybar and wins a tour of the mysterious candy factory.


This classic story is pretty much the original form of Survivor.  In the end, there can be only one!  But along the way, the way various children are sent away from the factory serve as didactic moments.  Of course, these lessons seem mainly geared toward parents:  Don’t spoil children, don’t allow children to watch so much television, discourage gluttony, etc. 

There is however a lesson for kids as well—be good, poor and willing to starve.  Good things will happen.



Activities to do with the book:


Since much of the plot is actually dealing with marketing techniques, a teacher could assign students to research contests sponsored by companies (especially those in the food industry).  They could make posters and do presentations about various contests and discuss which techniques seem effective and why.


A brave teacher could also address the treatment of the oompa-loompas and place them in the historical context of a tribe being forced to relocate.  A teacher could discuss colonialism, equality, whether or not it’s acceptable to keep people in a factory as workers and test subjects….


An elementary school could organize gym teams according to the various factory guests’ names.  Nothing appeals like the sound of Team Gloop.


The book lends itself to creating illustrations or dioramas of how they envision the factory to look.  They could also write more songs in response as well.



Favorite Quotes:


“This is Charlie.

How d’you do?  And how d’you do?  And how d’you do again?  He is pleased to meet you.

The whole of the family—the six grownups (count them) and little Charlie Bucket—live together in a small wooden house on the edge of a great town” (pp. 3-4).


“He’s brilliant!” cried Grandpa Joe.  “He’s a magician!  Just imagine what will happen now!  The whole world will be searching for those Golden Tickets!  Everyone will be buying Wonka’s candy bars in the hope of finding one!  He’ll sell more than ever before!  Oh, how exciting it would be to find one” (p. 20).


“…however small the chance might be of striking lucky, the chance was there.

The chance had to be there.

This particular candy bar had as much chance as any other of having a Golden Ticket” (p. 28).


“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,

Go throw your TV set away,

And in its place you can install

A lovely bookshelf on the wall.

Then fill the shelves with lots of books,

Ignoring all the dirty looks,

The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,

And children hitting you with sticks—

Fear not, because we promise you

That, in about a week or two

Of having nothing else to do,

They’ll now begin to feel the need

Of having something good to read” (p. 141).

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