What kid wouldn’t love to visit a chocolate factory? Especially one as fantastic as Willy Wonka’s eccentric factory? But be careful what you wish for because things aren’t always what they seem. What starts as a benign tour of a candy factory quickly starts to look like something else. Kids are dropping like flies, and it’s not quite clear if they’ll be okay. Will any of them make it to the end? Continue for more information about two beloved Willy Wonka books, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and its sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl!
[Warning: My review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator contains some spoilers!]
A beloved children’s classic revisited, just in time for Wonka
Pretty much everyone knows the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Whether you’ve been watching the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder your whole life or the newer Tim Burton version Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, chances are you know the general storyline.
But nothing quite beats the source. Roald Dahl was a very interesting writer and his stories are full of whimsy with just a touch of danger. Typically, the hero can make it through by being good and kind, but everyone else around them is always just a bit bratty or greedy, and they pay the price.
And that’s exactly what happens in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Charlie Bucket is our wholesome hero. When Willy Wonka announces a contest to allow five lucky winners to tour his highly secretive chocolate factory, Charlie dreams about the wonders behind the gate but never imagines that he might actually get to see them. After all, there are only five tickets in the whole world and Charlie only gets one candy bar a year. There’s no chance. But at the same time, there’s always a chance, right?
And of course, Charlie finds a golden ticket. Because otherwise there’s no book. So off he goes to the chocolate factory with the four other winners. Every one of the other winners is an awful little child. They all have a defining bad trait (gluttony, greed, etc.) but they are just general brats who don’t listen as well. They all come up against something that speaks to their particular weakness, and they all meet a sticky ending because of it. Now because this is a children’s book, they “all come out in the wash”. A little changed for their experience but also a little better for it.
Family friction in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
In the end, only Charlie manages to make it all the way through the tour unscathed. As a reward, Willy Wonka reveals that he is giving his entire chocolate factory to Charlie. And that’s where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ends. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator picks up exactly where the first book leaves off. Charlie, his whole family, and Mr. Wonka are all in the great glass elevator headed to the chocolate factory. All the bad little children may be gone, but that doesn’t mean that everyone in the elevator knows how to behave.
The big problem is the old folks in the bed. They are used to having things their way, and they don’t want to listen to Wonka. This leads to all kinds of problems and strange adventures. Everything comes out in the wash again, but first, they end up in outer space, battle dangerous aliens, and take a trip to Minus land. It is quite the day, and like Charlie excitedly proclaims at the end of the book “It’s not over yet, … It hasn’t even begun.”
Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka books have two very different feels
I’ve been reading both these books since I was pretty young, and I’ve always noticed one thing about them, they are very different books. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a fun adventure that has some underlying lessons about being kind and following rules. But Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, while still including some veiled lessons and interesting experiences, feels a little more disjointed.
Dahl wrote it seven years after Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and it’s just not the same quality as the first one. I think that children won’t necessarily notice that, and they’ll love all the silliness. But adults probably won’t enjoy it as much, which is probably why it’s not as well known as the first.
Since I covered two books in this review, I’ll give each one a separate rating below. You’ve probably figured out that I like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory more than Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, but I think that both are worth checking out at least once.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 8/10
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator 7/10
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl are available now! And Wonka arrives in theaters on December 15. Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on reading these books or seeing the film in theaters!