Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl

For all the reading I’ve ever done, the only Roald Dahl book I’ve read before this one is Matilda. Isn’t that weird? I’ve seen pretty much every related movie to Dahl’s books, but I have got to get on reading them proper!

So, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the 70’s movie version of which is one of my favorite Gene Wilder films. Oh, Gene Wilder. Anyway, if you’ve seen that movie, or the more recent one, even, you’ve pretty much read the book. Charlie Bucket, a poor, starving child (I guess that part’s not so much in the movie versions), hits it supremely lucky and finds one of five golden tickets that permit him entrance to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, a very secretive place. Charlie goes along with four other kids, all of whom are a little less than perfect: Augustus Gloop is a chocolate (and everything else) glutton, Veruca Salt is intensely greedy, Violet Beauregarde chews gum all day long for no apparent reason, and Mike Teavee, well, watches TV. One by one the children succumb to their faults and are removed from the factory (but live, I promise!), except for Charlie, who, as the last child standing, wins! Yay winning!

I was talking the book over with my husband last night after I finished and comparing it to my beloved Gene Wilder movie. The plot is entirely the same, of course, but there are some interesting differences in the story. The biggest difference is in how Charlie wins the crazy game that Wonka’s playing; in the movie he is removed from the running after not following directions in the factory, but then gives back a piece of candy and is deemed trustworthy in Wonka’s eyes, or something. In the book, however, Charlie is simply the last child standing and so wins β€” had he, in the book, gone after the fizzy lifting drinks (he does not), Mike Teavee could have been the winner. I think I like the movie ending better as a good story to tell your kids, but Roald Dahl does make a good case in the book for throwing out your television and installing bookcases, so that’s a good moral, too!

Now to read another Dahl book; what do you all suggest?

Rating: 8/10
(A to Z Challenge)

See also:
Maw Books Blog

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle (11 September β€” 12 September)

A Wrinkle in Time was one of my favorite books as a kid, probably because it has a cool girl protagonist and also a super-smart five-year-old, both of which I wanted to be/have been. πŸ™‚ I re-read it once in undergrad and I remember liking it, but I don’t remember it going by so fast! I think I was also reading lots of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books at the time, so it probably didn’t feel so rushed.

Anyway! Like you don’t know (and if you don’t, you should fix this immediately!), this book is about a girl called Meg Murry who has the hard life of any teenager, plus a little bit: she hates school, she’s constantly picked on and getting in fights, and her dad has disappeared amongst rumors that he’s left his wife for another woman. Fun! Meg doesn’t believe that last one, so when her super-smart little brother, Charles Wallace, introduces her to some crazy old ladies who say they can help get Mr. Murry back, she’s game. But, of course, this adventure requires some space-folding and other-planet-visiting and moral-learning.

Reading it now, I can see some problems with the book: namely, everything seems to happen in the span of a day and there’s no time to digest what’s happening before something else happens. And the moral-learning part is more than a little heavy-handed. But I think it’s perfect younger young adult reading and the images of the book (especially the sameness of everything on Camazotz) have stuck with me since childhood, so that’s a point in L’Engle’s favor.

Rating: 8/10
(Summer Lovin’ Challenge, My Year of Reading Dangerously)

See also:
Library Queue
Rhinoa’s Ramblings

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson (8 September β€” 10 September)

What a delightfully creepy book! The book is narrated by our protagonist, Mary Katherine Blackwood, who opens the book with the statement that everyone in her family but herself and her sister Constance is dead. That’s no fun. Mary Katherine also remarks on some library books sitting on a shelf: “I wondered whether I would have chosen differently if I had known that these were the last books, the ones which would stand forever on our kitchen shelf.” What?? What has happened? Mary Katherine will tell you.

The story jumps back five months to explain just how those ended up being the last books, and also why the Blackwoods are nearly all dead, and there’s some good story in between those two stories and it’s all just wonderful. I don’t want to say anything else lest I spoil this short, entertaining book!

Suffice it to say that even when I had the story figured out, or thought I did, Jackson managed to keep me on my toes, and everything in the story just has this strange, creepy vibe to it that makes you wonder just what is really going on in this house. I’m going to have to find some more Shirley Jackson stories, stat!

Rating: 9/10
(RIP Challenge)

See also:
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?
things mean a lot
books i done read
A Striped Armchair

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster (10 July β€” 11 July)

So back in the day, I was a big nerd. “Just back in the day?”, I hear you saying, and you are right. But! Nonetheless. Big nerd. As part of my nerdiness, I did things like memorize state capitals and dichotomous keys (the latter has not stayed with me, sadly) found in my Childcraft encyclopedia/instructive books set. Did you have such a set? Because these books were awesome. And one of them, the one focused on math, included an excerpt from The Phantom Tollbooth, wherein Milo meets the Dodecahedron. I knew right away (at what, eight years old?) that I needed to find this book immediately. It’s been my favorite children’s book ever since.

For those of you who didn’t have Childcraft and/or were not interested in nerdy books as a child, The Phantom Tollbooth is the story of a kid called Milo who is just bored with life. I’ll let the author explain:

“When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he’d bothered. Nothing really interested himβ€”least of all the things that should have.”

One day Milo arrived home, bored, to discover a curious package in his living room. Again, let’s let Juster set the scene:

“Who could possibly have left such an enormous package and such a strange one? For, while it was not quite square, it was definitely not round, and for its size it was larger than almost any other big package of smaller dimension that he’d ever seen.”

And it goes on from there. The package is the titular tollbooth, and Milo drives his toy car past it and into a land where all of our idiomatic expressions are taken literally (e.g. Milo jumps to conclusions about his trip and finds himself jumping to an island called Conclusions from which he must swim back) and there is a bit of a feud between math and language. Milo, with his companions Tock the watchdog (a dog with a clock for a torso) and the Humbug (who has a predilection for the number seventeen that I’ve long since assimilated), finds himself volunteering to end this feud by way of a perilous journey to the Castle in the Air, where the princesses Rhyme and Reason have been imprisoned for far too long.

Basically, it’s an adventure book with a great message for kids (knowledge, all of it, is important) and sly references for the adults reading it to them. The illustrations are cute, too.

Rating: 9/10
(Summer Lovin’ Challenge)