Monday, September 27, 2010

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

This will be my final entry in my little "Dahlathon" quest that I embarked upon this month.  Frankly, I'm glad .... when I started, I was inspired --- and now, I'm all "Dahl-ed out."

Summary (courtesy of Goodreads):  Picking right up where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory left off, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator continues the adventures of Charlie Bucket, his family, and Willy Wonka, the eccentric candy maker. As the book begins, our heroes are shooting into the sky in a glass elevator, headed for destinations unknown. What follows is exactly the kind of high-spirited magical madness and mayhem we've all come to expect from Willy Wonka and his creator Roald Dahl. The American space race gets a send-up, as does the President, and Charlie's family gets a second chance at childhood. Throw in the Vermicious Knids, Gnoolies, and Minusland and we once again witness pure genius.

And here's what I thought:   While this continues a story I liked very much, this book really isn't my favorite among the bunch.  It's almost like Dahl continued on because he felt like he had to, but it wears a little thin in spots.  We have Charlie and Mr. Wonka, and Charlie's family (including Grandma Georgina, who's turned into an outspoken old lady).  The Glass Elevator shoots the bunch into space, where they encounter the Space Hotel and.... Vermicious Knids.   Don't tell me you don't know about the Vermicious Knids?!  Well, you can read all about them here -- it's p. 50 in my edition (hardcover, 1972), Chapter 7, titled "Something Nasty in the Elevators."    I actually loved it when I got to this point, because I was a bit bored up until then.  The Knids really are nasty, boogery, icky beasties.  Dahl does a good job of making them downright yucky, but then gives us a laugh when one gets a huge butt bruise, trying to smack into the glass elevator.

But then, after the Knids, we're back down to the factory, where the story becomes all about Charlie's grandparents and their efforts to become younger (courtesy of Mr. Wonka's magical pills).   This is actually a kind of scary part -- one of the grandparents reverses age so quickly and completely that she becomes a "minus."  I'm not sure why this bothers me, but when I read this as a child, I found it pretty disturbing.   This whole old age to really young age and then back to old age was something I just didn't like --- and actually, I find it a little creepy, even now.

Overall, this is an okay book, but it didn't have the completely magical qualities that the first story had.  Perhaps it's because I find chocolate more interesting than space travel?  Dahl does put some interesting elements into this book, such as his having Mr. Wonka explain how to propel yourself when you have no gravity.   And on p. 109 (again, in my edition), when the grandparents are fighting over who gets the magical pills, Mr. Wonka has a moment of reflection.  "He hated squabbles.  He hated it when people got grabby and selfish.  Let them fight it out among themselves, he thought, and then he walked away. .. It was an unhappy truth, he told himself, that nearly all people in the world behave badly when there is something really big at stake."

This was a part in the book where I actually stopped and reflected for a moment.  Here, instead of giving us comeuppance for bad behavior, like in the first story, he is just laying it all out, stating it simply.  It's not just something that Mr. Wonka is reflecting on -- it's a thought a reader should reflect upon.   And, in this story, when this is happening, it's actually not children behaving greedily, like Violet snatching the gum, or Veruca reaching for a squirrel: it's grown-ups who are really too old to be acting that way.  Perhaps Dahl is pointing out that even the best adults can be reduced to acting like spoiled children in a certain situation.  Not sure, but it did make me think.

Despite this not really being my favorite Dahl book, I still enjoyed reading it, and I think it makes a good read, overall.   That being said, I have finished my "Dahlathon" and look forward to moving on (I have 2 books currently going and way too many in my library bag).  Happy reading, everyone!!

One last note:  this original edition is illustrated by Joseph Schindelman, who also did the original illustrations in Charlie and the Chocolate factory.  He does a wonderful job with the Knids.


Black Disaster Fairy said...

Charlie and the Chocolate used to be one of my favorites. I even like the newer Tim Burton version. However, I have not read the books. I should really look into. I bet my boys would enjoy them.

Black Disaster Fairy

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