I’ve been chomping at the bit to get my kids interested in reading books that aren’t carried by the illustrations, and CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY was the book that finally got us over that hurdle! My 4-year-old stayed engaged and followed the story, even brought it up and talked about the characters at times that we were not reading. Even my son (almost 3) generally paid attention, but mostly because he follows his sister’s lead. Other books we’ve tried recently were too long-winded or slow to keep my daughter’s attention, but Roald Dahl’s masterpiece was a hit. I think the vividness of the exaggerated, one-dimensional characters helps young readers/listeners cement the characters into their minds, providing strong anchors to help keep focused on the story. This is particularly true if you can give each of the characters their own recognizable voice when reading this one out loud!
My kids’ favorite part of the book was when the squirrels threw Veruca Salt (and her parents!) down the garbage shoot. I bring that up when the kids start whining about something, reminding them that it was the parents’ spoiling of Veruca that made her into such an insufferable brat! The Oompa-Loompas and their long, complex songs were not as funny as I remembered, and I could tell the kids were pretty much waiting for them to be over so the story could resume. This surprised me since I seemed to remember them being my favorite part. Maybe I just didn’t do them justice in my attempts to sing like an Oompa-Loompa!
The lessons conveyed by CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY are simple but important. Behave with respect, dignity, and politeness and try not to be like Augustus, Veruca, Violet, of Mike, each of whom personify excess, disrespect, selfishness and unhealthy habits. I can’t recommend this book highly enough if you’re looking for an easy-to-follow, short book to read out loud to children! It has simple black-and-white illustrations every few pages, something to look at but not stare at continually, so it is a good book for transitioning from picture books to chapter books.