Happy (belated) 50th, Mr. Wonka!

Well, now I have a craving for chocolate. And maybe a gobstopper–I just realized I forgot that Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory turned 50 this year. I still enjoy it, even as an adult–the digs and humor and inventive setting are the epitome of the expression “happier than a kid in a candy store.”

Not that Charlie Bucket usually knows how that feels. I’ve spent a great deal of the past year and some surviving on soup, and I’m still cringing for him–cabbage soup, every day. There’s not a lot he can do about that, since it’s him and his parents and both sets of his grandparents, including Grandpa Joe, with whom he’s particularly close. When Charlie walks by a candy store, he breathes as if he’s trying to eat the smell itself. It’s especially hard when the most prominent, eccentric candymaker is holding a lottery via chocolate–5 kids will unwrap a gold ticket, which will get them and their parents into Willy Wonka’s mysterious factory. And one day Charlie finds a dollar, and a candy bar changes his life. Who says candy can’t be good for you?

Let me rephrase that, come to think of it. It’s good for Charlie, because he’s the hero of this awesome cautionary tale. But if you’re a bad nut like Veruca Salt or a gum-chewing addict like Violet Beauregarde (not to be confused with Violet Baudelaire), your life will be changed for the bizarre and set to music by little orange men. Actually, chocolate is pretty sneaky stuff. Remember The Witches? What better way to turn the world’s children into mice than mint some money and buy a fleet of sweet shops, spiking the candy? Fortunately, though, a couple of mice and a tough witchophile grandma have an idea to save the world. (Not to be confused with Pinky and the Brain.)

John Midas was a few years too late for Wonka’s tour, but he would have fit right in. Like his predecessor, he makes a wish: that everything he touches turns to chocolate, aka the Chocolate Touch. (Not to be confused with the Cheese Touch.) That means everything–for some reason the scene that sticks out in my head is his unfortunate math test when he absently chews on his pencil. Believe it or not, a kid can crave vegetables after what seems like an eternity of chocolate.

And then there are the books that pay homage to Wonka and Dahl. By now, most people have at least heard of Bertie Bott’s every-flavor jellybeans via Harry Potter, if not actually tasted one. (Hopefully not the vomit or earwax. But the toothpaste flavor is very nice, if so.) Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library makes use of a Wonka-like plot as the class clown, Kyle Keeley, vies to escape a clever game designer’s library and win the grand prize without running afoul of his rival.

Okay, on second thought, I’ll skip the chocolate. Food is a better idea. I wouldn’t mind a piece of the hunger-ending gum that’s the same as a dinner… But it always goes wrong at dessert. Ya think he was trying to make a point? ;)

See also: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory videos, with Wilder or Depp

About Amy

Children's librarian, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
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