Maybe it explains why I love books so much - even those labeled "for kids" - I have so many good memories of reading. When my brother graduated from medical school, I was in the first grade. Before going to his three hour graduation, we stopped by a bookstore and Mom said I could pick out a book to read at his ceremony. I chose the first book in The Boxcar Children series - and I still have it. By the time David walked across the stage, I was half-way through the book. By the time we left the building, I had finished it. I. Love. Books. :-)
So today's selection, while written for children, is also one of my favorite set of books. I didn't read them until early high school (not sure how I missed them before that), and like other books I have reviewed, I usually end up pulling them off of my shelves once every year or two for a re-read.
I first read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, not because it's the first book, but because I loved watching Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. One of my all-time favorite movies from childhood - and I rented it from the library anytime my mom would let me. In fact, I just watched it the other night (of course I own a copy!) and it brought back so many good memories. However, with all that being said I must now add two things:
1) Although Gene Wilder's version is a fun classic, it is not much like the book (the newer version with Johnny Depp, while taking several liberties, is closer to the book with all the Oompa-Loompa's songs). However, Gene as Mr. Wonka will always be my favorite.
2) While I love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the book)...Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator is hands down my favorite of the two.
I can talk about them, I can tell you about them, but I'd rather you just read them. So instead, I'll close with my favorite Oompa-Loompa song, found on pages 145-149 in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Puffin version) by Roald Dahl:
"The most important thing we've learned, so far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let them near your television set --
Or better still, just don't install the idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been, we've watch them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about, and stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw a dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk with all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still, they don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch, they leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink -- but did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what this does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD! IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK -- HE ONLY SEES!
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
But if we take the set away, what shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!
We'll answer this by asking you, 'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know? We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ! They'd READ and READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed to READ some more.
Great Scott! Gadzooks! One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore! Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed, more books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants, and sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot, stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be? Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter and Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland, and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and --
Just How The Camel Got His Hump, And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul, there's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole --
Oh, books, what books they used to know, those children living long ago!
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. And once they start - oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy that fills their hearts.
They'll grow so keen they'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine, that nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee, we very much regret that we
shall simply have to wait and see if we can get him back his height.
But if we can't -- it serves him right.
Isn't it delightful?! I just love it! And you know, a fun little Christmas or birthday gift for a kid would be a copy of each book and one or both of the movies I previously mentioned. You might even be able to find them used! So...happy reading!
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