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Charlie's Makeover

September 2, 2014 - Paige Trisko

In August there was an uproar of negative reactions to the new cover art featured on Penguin Modern Classics' "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" set to be released in Europe on Sept. 4, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the first edition released in the U.S. in 1964.

The creepy doll-like child starring blankly into space is sandwiched between a female figure whose lap the child is seated on and, I assume, the female figure's shadow. What does this have to do with the beloved Roald Dahl classic? In the blogging world, no one seems to quite know.

"This new image for 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' looks at the children at the centre of the story, and highlights the way Roald Dahl's writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life," Penguin stated.

While several of Dahl's other books certainly fall into a dark category including aspects of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, adults check out "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More" (these stories still haunt me), Charlie's adventures are not perverse. This new cover has a perverse sexuality that the book world is reacting to. Instead, Dahl delights in mischievous children and bad behavior that does teach children morals regarding good behavior. Penguin further stated that the new edition was "intended for an adult audience" and that the cover art does not represent any of the characters from the story.

Of course adults can, and do, enjoy Charlie, but I'm not sure I understand the intended design specifically for an "adult audience." Even if an original scene that was recently published had been included in the original book, I still do not see the relation. This scene that was deemed too inappropriate for children describes the Vanilla Fudge Room. With 10 golden tickets instead of five, Wonka leads the children to the room to explore and, well, eat fudge. Once in the room, however, Wilbur Rice and Tommy Troutbeck ignore Willy Wonka's warnings and find themselves in the fudge Pounding and Cutting Room.

"'That hole,' said Mr. Wonka, 'leads directly to what we call The Pounding And Cutting Room. In there, the rough fudge gets tipped out of the waggons into the mouth of a huge machine. The machine then pounds it against the floor until it is all nice and smooth and thin. After that, a whole lot of knives come down and go chop, chop, chop, cutting it up into neat little squares, ready for the shops.'"

"The Guardian" published the chapter in August, the link is available to the right.

So Penguin; don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Johnny Depp's twisted performance of Willy Wonka, and even this did not allure to anything sexual. However, did your art department staff actually read the book and did not simply watch the film?


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Penguin Modern Classics' new cover art being released Sept. 4.


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