This tween book by Roald Dahl is published by Puffin, a division of Penguin Books, and is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Charlie Bucket is a poor boy whose family can barely afford to buy food. Charlie is fond of chocolate, but he only receives one chocolate bar every year on his birthday. He lives within sight of a chocolate factory owned by the famous chocolate maker Willy Wonka, but Wonka has closed off his factory to the world for the past 10 years. No workers enter or leave the buildings.
A newspaper announcement from Wonka reveals that he will open his factory for a private tour, though he will only allow five children to enter. The five children will be admitted if they have invitations called Golden Tickets, but these Golden Tickets are hidden inside Wonka chocolate bars, and no one knows which bars contain the tickets. As an added incentive, the children who find Golden Tickets will receive a lifetime supply of chocolates and candy after their tour is finished. Charlie has little hope of finding a Golden Ticket because he only receives one bar of chocolate per year.
In the days following Wonka's big announcement, Charlie reads a series of newspaper articles that introduce the children who find Golden Tickets. The first ticket belongs to Augustus Gloop, an obese boy with a chronic overeating problem. The second ticket goes to Veruca Salt, a spoiled, angry girl. Charlie still has a hope of finding a Golden Ticket until he opens his special birthday chocolate bar and finds nothing but chocolate inside. Violet Beauregarde finds the third ticket. She is a rude girl who chews gum constantly. Mike Teavee, a child obsessed with watching television, finds the fourth ticket.
Charlie finds a dollar bill on the sidewalk and uses it to purchase two chocolate bars. The second bar contains the fifth and final Golden Ticket, which says the children may bring either one or two members of their family to look after them as they tour the factory. The next morning, Charlie and his Grandpa Joe go to Wonka's factory and are welcomed inside along with the other four ticket holders. Wonka leads his guests to an underground portion of the factory called the Chocolate Room. The room is designed to look like an outdoor landscape complete with trees, flowers and a waterfall, but Wonka has made the entire scene out of candy and chocolate. Charlie and the other children see some doll-sized human beings in the Chocolate Room, and Wonka explains they are Oompa-Loompas whom he saved from the dangerous country of Loompaland. The Oompa-Loompas agreed to work for Wonka and live in his factory in exchange for a safe home and an endless supply of their favorite food, cacao beans.
As Wonka is speaking, Augustus Gloop begins to drink from the chocolate river, despite warnings not to do so. Augustus falls into the river, where the current pulls him through a series of glass pipes. Wonka assures everyone that Augustus will not be harmed by the experience, and an Oompa-Loompa leads Mr. and Mrs. Gloop to the Fudge Room, where their son will soon arrive. The tour proceeds without the Gloop family. The guests board a yacht made of pink candy and sail down the chocolate river.
Everyone disembarks at the Inventing Room. Wonka shows the children several of his new candy creations. Against Wonka's advice, Violet Beauregarde grabs a piece of experimental gum and chews it. Violet turns blue and swells up until she resembles a giant blueberry. Some Oompa-Loompas roll Violet to the Juicing Room, where she will be squeezed until she returns to her normal size. The Beauregardes follow the Oompa-Loompas to the Juicing Room as the other guests continue the tour.
At the Nut Room, the guests see 100 squirrels at work shelling walnuts. Veruca Salt demands that her parents buy her a trained squirrel. When Wonka refuses to sell any squirrels, Veruca rushes forward to grab one. Instead, the squirrels grab Veruca, tap her head to determine whether she is a bad nut and throw her down a garbage chute. The squirrels also push Mr. and Mrs. Salt down the garbage chute. The tour continues without the Salts.
The remaining guests ride a glass elevator to the Television-Chocolate Room. Mike Teavee disobeys Wonka and sends himself through a television machine that vaporizes and re-assembles large objects. Mike is transformed into a 1"-tall version of himself. Wonka sends the Teavee family to a place where Mike can be stretched back to his original size.
Charlie and Grandpa Joe are the only remaining guests. Charlie, Grandpa Joe and Wonka step into the great glass elevator and fly out of the factory by crashing through the roof. The elevator flies over the entrance to the factory, where Charlie sees the other children leaving. They are all unharmed, but the obese Augustus Gloop has been squeezed until he is thin. Violet Beauregarde has purple skin. Veruca Salt is covered in garbage, and Mike Teavee has been stretched until he is shockingly tall.
As the glass elevator flies over Charlie's town, Wonka says he is glad that Charlie loves the chocolate factory. Wonka plans to give the factory to Charlie, who will be expected to run the business when he becomes an adult. Wonka says that Charlie must bring his whole family to live at the chocolate factory. At Charlie's house, Wonka ushers the whole family into the glass elevator, and they fly off toward their new home.
Grandpa Joe shouts, "Hallelujah" and "Praise the Lord!" when he learns he will be taking Charlie to tour the chocolate factory. The Oompa-Loompas sing a song that mentions a woman chewing gum while in church. Wonka tells Mrs. Teavee to pray that her son will be unharmed after being sent through the television machine.
Charlie Bucket lives in a home with six adult family members. Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine are Mr. Bucket's parents, and Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina are Mrs. Bucket's parents. All four of Charlie's grandparents take delight in his company, and he is pleased to sit and listen to them tell stories in the evenings. When Charlie offers a bite of his birthday candy bar to all the members of his family, they refuse because they do not want to deprive him of the special chocolate he only receives once every year. Grandpa Joe uses his hidden stash of money (a silver 10-cent piece), to buy Charlie one extra bar of chocolate.
Mr. Bucket works hard to support his family, though they are still impoverished. When he loses his job at the toothpaste factory, he goes to work shoveling snow, which brings in even less income. The adults are all willing to do without food in order to keep Charlie well fed, but Charlie refuses to accept portions of their meals. The entire family is concerned about Charlie's lack of proper nutrition.
Wonka's authority and advice are continually ignored and overlooked. Wonka joyfully welcomes the five children and their parents into his factory, but he isn't concerned about their welfare when they violate his warnings.
Augustus Gloop's mother insists that her son's severe obesity is not problematic because he would not eat so much unless he were truly hungry. Mrs. Gloop believes that compulsive eating is a safe hobby for her son and insists that chocolate is full of vitamins. Augustus does not obey his mother's and Wonka's requests that he stop drinking from the indoor chocolate river. Mr. Gloop refuses to dive into the chocolate river to rescue his son, because it would ruin his best suit. Mr. and Mrs. Gloop seem concerned about their son's safety after he is pulled into the glass pipes above the chocolate river.
Veruca Salt's father fulfills his daughter's every wish and buys thousands of Wonka bars so she will find the Golden Ticket she has demanded. Veruca throws tantrums by falling to the floor, kicking and screaming, but her father only sees her tantrums as a sign of her unhappiness. He does not discipline his daughter in any way. Mrs. Salt also tries to soothe Veruca with presents whenever she makes a demand.
Violet Beauregarde's mother tries in vain to keep her daughter from insulting her in front of a room full of reporters. Mrs. Beauregarde is ineffective at changing her daughter's gum-chewing habits. Violet grabs a piece of special gum in Wonka's Inventing Room, although Mrs. Beauregarde and Wonka caution her against taking it. When Violet chews the gum, Mrs. Beauregarde quickly changes her mind and praises her daughter for being clever enough to try something so unusual. Mr. Beauregarde tells his daughter to keep chewing because he believes that his family will be famous if their child eats the world's first meal made from chewing gum. Violet tells her mother to be quiet. When Violet turns blue and swells up, her parents are concerned for her, though they blame Wonka for the problem.
Mike Teavee is fond of violent television programs, and his parents do not mention their view of his taste in entertainment. Mike ignores warnings from his mother because he wants to be beamed through the television machine in the Television-Chocolate room. Mike's parents are worried about his well-being when he is vaporized. Mrs. Teavee finally says that when their family returns home, Mike will not be allowed to watch television again since his obsession with television has led to his current predicament. The 1-inch-tall Mike tries to bite his mother's hand. Mr. Teavee puts Mike in the pocket of his jacket for safekeeping.
Wonka has invented a candy called Stickjaw, which is designed to keep talkative parents from speaking.
Other belief systems
Charlie and his family repeatedly mention that finding a Golden Ticket is a matter of luck. Charlie observes that Wonka's Inventing Room is like a witch's kitchen.
Characters say heck and cripes. A-- is used to mean a foolish person.
Although Augustus, Veruca, Violet and Mike behave selfishly, other characters in the book refer to them in unkind terms. The Oompa-Loompas' songs about the children include a variety of insults. They call Augustus a great big greedy nincompoop, pig, revolting boy, greedy brute and a louse's ear. The Oompa-Loompas call Violet a repulsive little bum. The song about Veruca calls her a little brute and a brat. Grandpa Joe says Veruca needs to be kicked in the pants. Wonka calls Mrs. Salt a dear old fish and tells her to go boil her head.
Mike is fond of violent television programs featuring fights between gangsters. Mike says he wishes he were a gangster so he could take part in gunfights, knife fights and fistfights.
Wonka says that monsters often ate the Oompa-Loompas when they lived in their original country of Loompaland.
Augustus' pressurized journey through the glass pipes above the chocolate river seems violent, but Wonka assures Augustus' parents that the boy will not be harmed. However, the Oompa-Loompas jokingly sing about Augustus being sliced up, boiled and mixed into pieces of fudge.
Wonka uses Oompa-Loompas as test subjects for his candy experiments, and he says that many of them have swelled into giant blueberry-shaped people.
The Oompa-Loompas sing a song about a woman who chews gum for so long that she eventually chews her own tongue in half. They also briefly sing about a group of cannibals who have cooked someone.
Millennium Childrens' Book Award, 2000
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Grandpa Joe tells the story of Prince Pondicherry, a young ruler from India, who paid Wonka to build a chocolate palace for him.
What does Wonka advise the Prince to do with his palace?
What does Prince Pondicherry do instead?
Why should he have listened to Wonka?
What good advice has someone given you that you chose not to listen to?
- Why did other chocolate makers send spies to steal Wonka's recipes?
How did Wonka react to this betrayal?
Why does Wonka say he can't trust adults with his factory?
If some people from a group, such as adults, are not trustworthy, does that mean everyone in the group is not trustworthy?
What would you have done if you were Wonka?
- Augustus, Violet, Veruca and Mike ignore various warnings.
How can you help friends stay out of trouble once they've been warned about something?
How can friends help you?
- Why did Wonka hold the contest with the Golden Tickets?
What special prize does Charlie earn through his good behavior?
What admirable qualities does Wonka say that Charlie exhibits? (He is good, sensible and loving.)
Tell about a time when you were rewarded because of your good behavior.
Obsession: When Wonka announces his contest with the Golden Tickets, people begin to panic and behave badly in pursuit of the tickets. A gangster robs a bank and spends all the money on candy bars. A woman tries to win the contest by creating a fake Ticket. A machine supposedly calibrated to find gold tickets tries to yank a gold tooth from a woman's mouth.
Alcohol: Wonka has a room for creating Butterscotch and Buttergin, which have alcoholic content. Wonka says the Oompa-Loompas love these beverages because they make them drunk as lords.
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