Willy wonka book cover

There is a controversy lighting the book blogosphere on fire this month. When Penguin Books published the cover to their new British edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory many people reacted with confusion or anger. Released for the 50th anniversary, the cover depicts a dolled up young girl sitting with a woman who is presumably her mother. Before I go on, take a look at the cover and decide for yourself. What do you think?

The first article I read about the cover (this one from the BBC) points out that one of the largest complaints about the image is that it depicts a highly sexualized young girl. A Journal Star article about the cover points out that it screams Toddlers and Tiaras or JonBenet Ramsey. I think we can all agree that these are not good things.

Now I didn’t find the cover to be overly sexualized, but I did find it to be creepy. It looked like some sort of Stepford Children meets the Uncanny Valley situation to me. Initially, I believed it was Verucha Salt pictured and I couldn’t figure out why they would choose her, or any female, on the cover of a book belonging to the male characters, Charlie and Willy Wonka. When I read that the cover girl did not represent Miss Salt or the other main female character, Violet Beauregarde, I became even more surprised and confused by Penguin’s choice. Why make a cover that has nothing to do with the book at all? Why make the cover to a well-loved children’s book weird and creepy?

I started to wonder if nostalgia was clouding mine and the general populations’ judgment. Was the classic cover illustrated by Quentin Blake so great? Was the cover of my childhood copy, with its giant chocolate bar and odd depiction of a small Willy Wonka sitting on Charlie’s arm any less creepy? Upon further examination, at the very least these covers capture what is happening in the book. There is chocolate. There is Charlie and there is Willy Wonka. In that regard, they were leaps and bounds above Penguin’s new cover. Blake’s illustrations capture the whimsy of Wonka and his factory and the original illustrator Joseph Schindelman at least lets you know what you are in for.

If I learned anything from the Bushwick show covering The Phantom Tollbooth, I found that even if I had read a book repeatedly during childhood, I might love it more or in different ways if I reread it as an adult. Maybe I would like or at least understand this new cover if I revisited Roald Dahl’s text. So I picked up my childhood copy and spent an evening trying to make sense of the whole thing.

While keeping this statement from Penguin’s press release in mind, “This new image for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory looks at the children at the center of the story, and highlights the way Roald Dahl’s writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life” I took to the pages to see if my adult mind could reconcile these ideas in a new, grown-up way.

So how did it go? Did I gain a new appreciation for the cover? In short, no. My childhood memories of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are intact and I don’t have a new found appreciation for the odd new cover choice. Yes; all the kids, except for Charlie Bucket, are brats that are mostly undeterred by their parents’ attempts at discipline. What’s so dark about bratty kids and bad parents? In the end, all of them leave the factory with their lifetime supply of chocolate. Sure, Violet is now purple, but at least she’s not a blueberry. That problem was fixed in the juicing room. The rest are changed visually, but don’t seem worse for the wear. They have lifetime supplies of chocolate bars after all!

I haven’t forgotten about the issue of either the slavery or indentured servitude of the Oompa Loompas. To me, that’s the darkest part of the book that mostly goes unmentioned. As a kid, I thought Wonka was nice for taking in these strange little dudes that must be endangered. I also thought they were so lucky to have jobs working in a candy factory. Hello! Dream job! Now though, questions of their well-being and pay and lack of advancement opportunities come to mind. Why doesn’t Wonka give his factory to the head Loompa? He must not have much faith in their leadership abilities since he gives it to a little kid with zero work experience who lacks even an elementary school degree. Only recently did I read that the original Oompa Loompas were members of a pygmy tribe from Africa that Wonka took from their homeland, imported to the factory in large crates and paid in chocolate. Yeah… It’s not surprising that they altered this in future printings at the request of the NAACP.

Skirting the issue of slavery that has since been removed from the book, what am I missing here? What dark parts of the story warrant the creepy cover? Someone please fill me in, so I can appreciate this new cover.

Penguin unveiled a brand new anniversary edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last week. The Roald Dahl novel is eliciting a hefty amount of criticism from the entire reading community.

The new book cover is eliciting a tremendous amount of negative press on Penguins official Facebook page, where the unveiling took place. Creepy, awful, Toddlers and Tiaras, Valley of the Dolls, A low point for Penguin covers, the image is dreadful, is that supposed to be Veruca Salt? Absolutely misleading. I wouldn’t buy a book with a cover like this for my child. It is a timeless classic and Penguin has ruined it. One Dahl fan summed up the reaction: ‘Is there time for a reprint? You’re destroying my childhood.’

But Penguin said it stressed “the light and the dark aspects” of Dahl’s work. “This design is in recognition of the book’s extraordinary cultural impact and is one of the few children’s books to be featured in the Penguin Modern Classics list. 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.”

Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.


Publisher defends ‘creepy’ Roald Dahl book cover

Image copyright Penguin Image caption The image is not intended to represent either Veruca Salt or Violet Beauregarde, publishers say

Penguin has defended its decision to use an image of a doll-like young girl on the cover of a new edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Members of the public reacted angrily when the new edition – part of the Penguin Modern Classics range – was revealed on Wednesday.

The cover was deemed “misleading” and “creepy”. Author Giles Paley-Phillips said it looked “more like Lolita”.

But Penguin said it stressed “the light and the dark aspects” of Dahl’s work.

“This design is in recognition of the book’s extraordinary cultural impact and is one of the few children’s books to be featured in the Penguin Modern Classics list.

“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,” said a statement from Penguin

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of a handful of children’s books to be made part of the Penguin Modern Classics series, which features around 800 titles considered, by the publisher, to be “the most exciting, groundbreaking and inspiring works of the last 100 years”.

Other children’s titles in the range include Tarka the Otter and Alice in Wonderland.

The new edition, which comes out on 4 September, coincides with the 50th anniversary celebrations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, first published in 1964.

The tale follows a sweet-natured, impoverished boy who is one of five children to find a golden ticket to visit Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory.

Image copyright Puffin Image caption The 50th anniversary edition will retain classic illustrations by Sir Quentin Blake

Reacting to the cover, Chocolat author Joanne Harris tweeted: ‘”I’m not sure why adults need a different cover anyway, but who was it who decided that “adult” meant “inappropriately sexualised”?

“Seriously, Penguin Books. Why not just get Rolf Harris to design the next one?” she added.

A spokeswoman for Penguin stressed that the new edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was “intended for an adult audience”, adding that the cover image was not intended to represent either of female children featured in the story.

The image is taken from a French magazine shoot by the photographers Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello, for a 2008 fashion article entitled Mommie Dearest.

“We wanted something that spoke about the other qualities in the book,” Penguin Press’s Helen Conford told the Bookseller. “It’s a children’s story that also steps outside children’s and people aren’t used to seeing Dahl in that way.”

But authors and public alike have argued that the children’s classic is not a crossover book, in the manner of Harry Potter or Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.

” a lot of ill feeling about it, I think because it’s such a treasured book and a book which isn’t really a ‘crossover book’,” Paley-Phillips told the Bookseller.

“People want it to remain as a children’s book.”

The Modern Classics edition is one of three special editions of the original book released this year, including a double-cover paperback and a ‘golden edition’ featuring full-colour illustrations by Dahl’s traditional illustrator Sir Quentin Blake.

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — The 50th anniversary publication of Roald Dahl’s beloved “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”…is leaving a bad taste in some people’s mouths.

An article at AdWeek.com asks whether Penguin, the book’s publisher, has created the worst book cover of all time.

Controversy surrounds the cover of the 50th anniversary edition — which features a young girl seated in her mother’s lap.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover — as posted to AdWeek.com

AdWeek.com says the picture is actually a cropped version of a photo used in a 2008 fashion magazine feature completely unrelated to Roald Dahl’s classic about Willy Wonka’s factory, the golden tickets, the Oompa Loompas and little Charlie.

Some who are criticizing the cover say the image sexualizes children. Others are simply calling it “creepy.”

AdWeek.com reports the publisher says the books’ cover “looks at the children at the center of the story, and highlights the way Roald Dahl’s writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life.”

Below is an image showcasing past “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” cover images — as posted to RoaldDahl.com.

for more from AdWeek.com.

to read an article on the cover controversy via The Daily Mail.

to read an article from the BBC, where the publisher responds to the cover controversy.

How Sweet It Is: The 50th Anniversary of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’

Fifty years after Charlie Bucket first unwrapped the coveted Golden Ticket granting him entry into Willy Wonka’s magical domain, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is celebrating its golden anniversary in fine form. To date, the book has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide in 55 languages, and spawned two film adaptations, an opera, and the 2013 musical currently enjoying a successful run in London’s West End.

The anniversary “gives us an opportunity to introduce a whole new audience of readers to Charlie,” said Jed Bennett, director of preschool and young readers marketing at Penguin Young Readers Group, which publishes the paperback edition. Beginning April 1, Penguin will kick off a year-long celebration with a host of initiatives in bookstores and schools as well as online.

  • Candy Contest: Along with its partners, Dylan’s Candy Bar – a chain of boutique candy shops – and nonprofit First Book, Penguin is launching the National Golden Ticket Sweepstakes on April 1. As in the book, five winners will play Willy Wonka for a day – in this case, at the Dylan’s Candy Bar location in New York City. “They’ll get to go behind the scenes, be part of our taste testing, co-host a birthday party, merchandise the sales floor, and fill the candy bins,” said owner Dylan Lauren, who credits Charlie as the inspiration for her stores. “It will be a real hands-on experience.” Sweepstakes entry forms will be available at all four Dylan’s stores, as well as in pop-up shops in malls and at airports across the country, on First Book’s website, and at Penguin truck tour stops, beginning at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Winners will also receive two roundtrip tickets to New York City, tickets to Matilda: The Musical on Broadway, and $5,000 worth of books donated to their respective school libraries.

    First Book will help promote the sweepstakes through its social media channels, and for every entry in the sweepstakes, Penguin will make a donation to First Book. “By working with First Book and helping those who don’t have the opportunity to get books, we are tapping into another major theme in Charlie: the underprivileged kid winning,” Bennett said.

  • Sweet on Social Media, Social Justice: New this year, the Roald Dahl Miss Honey Social Justice Award, named for the teacher in Dahl’s Matilda, is administered by the American Association of School Librarians and will be sponsored by Penguin Random House for its first five years. The award will go to an AASL member librarian who has collaborated with a teacher on a project, event, or program to further social justice using school library resources. The 2014 award winner – who, for this inaugural award, must incorporate Charlie into the project – will be honored on June 28 at the ALA annual conference in Las Vegas.

    A national social media campaign, also starting on April 1, will feature trivia questions about the Charlie book and musical, and invite authors and celebrities to tweet their thoughts on Dahl’s story. Penguin is also working with the recipe-sharing site Tastebook.com to encourage celebrities to share their Charlie-inspired recipes. While these plans are still in the preliminary stage, said Bennett, “We’ve reached out to a number of celebrity chefs to create a birthday cake.”

  • Publishing Party: Penguin Young Readers Group and Random House Children’s Books (which publishes Charlie in hardcover) are releasing several new or updated Charlie-themed books. The anniversary hardcover edition, with an introduction by Jon Scieszka, and the anniversary paperback are out now. Due in August are a gift edition with Blake’s illustrations, a commemorative edition with artwork by Joseph Schindelman, who illustrated the first U.S. edition, and Roald Dahl’s Doodle Book. And September sees the publication of Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket, and Roald Dahl’s Greatest Creation by Lucy Magan, with never-before-seen material from the archives of the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, England. For booksellers, oversized standees of Charlie and Willy Wonka based on Blake’s illustrations will be available in August, and Charlie trivia kits for in-store anniversary parties, counter displays and shelftalkers with sweepstakes entry forms are currently available. Dahl counter spinner racks will be available in June.
  • Treats, Tees, and More: Nestle will reveal a new treat in its Wonka line, which already includes a Chocolate Waterfall Bar, Triple Dazzle Caramel Bag, and other sweets. Dylan’s Candy Bars will roll out Charlie-inspired stationery, a Wonka-like top hat, pencil set, T-shirt, and giant chocolate bar pillow, all bearing an anniversary logo. Products will be sold online and in Dylan’s brick-and-mortar stores, and Lauren said her company is “trying to get product picked up by bookstores.”
  • A Satisfying Celebration: While many fans are expected to mark the anniversary this year, at least one of them has a keen personal interest in the occasion. “My grandfather once said that he found that finishing a book to be an immensely difficult task, and that he would wander around afterwards in a daze ‘like a mother who has lost her children,’ ” said Luke Kelly, Dahl’s grandson and the U.S. representative for the Roald Dahl literary estate. “Well, I would say that this ‘child’ has grown up and lived for 50 years in a million imaginations, and yet it feels just as fresh, pure and young as the day it was born from his pencil.”

    If his grandfather were alive today, how does Kelly suppose Dahl might celebrate? “I suspect he would help himself to a bottle of 50-year-old Bordeaux… and then he would have a chocolate bar… and then, most probably, he would amble up the garden path with its canopy of pleached lime trees towards his writing hut,” Kelly said. And the next great work of children’s literature might begin.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Trade Paperback 50th Anniversary Edition by Roald Dahl, illus. by Quentin Blake. Puffin, $6.99 Mar. ISBN 978-0-14-241031-8

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Gift Edition by Roald Dahl, illus. by Quentin Blake. Knopf, $27.99 Aug. 978-0-375-83197-3

Roald Dahl’s Doodle Book, illus. by Quentin Blake. Grosset & Dunlap, $12.99 Aug. 978-0-448-48160-9

Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket, and Roald Dahl’s Greatest Creation by Lucy Mangan, introduction by Sophie Dahl. Puffin, $19.99 Sept. 978-0-14-751348-9

What divisive ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ cover says about books and readers

The legions of readers buying physical books may be growing smaller. But when you mess with their classics, they’re as loud as they’ve ever been.

That’s what Penguin discovered last week, when the publishing house’s British arm announced the cover art for a 50th-
anniversary edition of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It’s an image of a doll-like little girl decked out in heavy makeup and a pink feather boa a la JonBenet Ramsey — no Willy Wonka, no Charlie, and certainly no chocolate.

Although the new edition will be printed only in Britain, it was controversial enough that bookworms worldwide tore their eyes from their reading to register their outrage.

“You mean, the worst cover ever?” Hannah Depp, a floor manager at D.C.’s Politics and Prose, said when asked about the updated art.

“Well, not the worst ever,” she backpedaled. “It just looks like, ‘I think I’m cleverer than I am.’ ”

The cover is certainly a departure from other incarnations of the Roald Dahl classic, most of which (including the current U.S. printing) have featured the famed whimsical illustrations by Quentin Blake. But the “Modern Classics” imprint under which the new edition will be released is not a children’s book line.

Instead, the sleek yet strange new edition of “Charlie” is probably intended for older readers, said Nan Graham, publisher of New York-based imprint Scribner. She’s well versed in the repackaging of classics, having overseen new printings of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” and Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.”

Adults who would not want to be seen reading the story of a cheery jaunt through a candy factory might be more interested in the Modern Classics version, whose cover emphasizes Dahl’s dark commentary on parents who act like children and children who must parent themselves. It’s a common strategy for publishers, who are always trying to carve out new markets for their books, Graham said.

Is that what the editors behind the new “Charlie” cover were going for? The publishing company declined to comment by phone, although a blog post accompanying the announcement about the jacket art suggested that its eeriness was not unintentional.

“This new image . . . looks at the children at the center of the story, and highlights the way Roald Dahl’s writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life,” it read.

But much of the literary world was not sold on the rebranding. Why did the cover of a novel about five kids and a wonderful — if admittedly bizarre — candy-
maker look like a scene from “Toddlers & Tiaras”? Commenters on Penguin’s Facebook page called it “creepy,” “sexualized” and “inappropriate garbage.”

“The impulse to focus on the darker aspects of the book makes a lot of sense to me, but I’m just so shocked by the result,” Depp, of Politics and Prose, said.

Therein lies the problem with modern reprintings: A revamped cover can help sell an old story to a new audience, but it runs the risk of alienating the book’s established fans.

“People respond the way they do because they care, and they care about the book the way they remember it,” said Chip Kidd, a New York-based graphic designer who churns out about 75 book covers a year.

Penguin U.K. is not the first publishing house to incur the wrath of literature lovers by changing a classic cover. Last summer, when Scribner put Leonardo DiCaprio on the jacket of “The Great Gatsby” to capi­tal­ize on the popularity of the Baz Luhrmann movie, the book world revolted.

“We never even took the non-movie tie-in edition out of print,” Graham said. “And still we got into trouble.”

Depp can confirm this: At Politics and Prose, the traditional version — featuring the iconic eyes floating on a blue background — sold better than the DiCaprio cover.

Graham is not entirely surprised by the response. Looking at her own shelf, she begins listing books whose covers she wouldn’t want to see changed. It’s a testament to an author’s ability, she says. Good writing can make readers feel so possessive toward a book that they want nothing about it altered.

And beyond that, familiar book covers serve as a kind of tether in a world of frenetic Twitter feeds and glowing smartphone screens.

“The classic, the thing that one recognizes, gains value up against the deluge of newness,” Graham said.

To Tony Ross, a former art director at District-based Mage Publishers who teaches a class on jacket design for the D.C. Public Library, it’s a particularly book-ish perspective. The modernization of a beloved children’s story, even if it goes no deeper than the cover art, gets to the heart of some reader anxiety — worries that the world is changing, and the book industry along with it.

The classics “are sort of these touchstones for people,” Ross said.

For the record, Ross likes the new “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” cover, which he says is provocative to exactly the right degree.

As for what Dahl — who wrote, “Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it” — would think?

Ross says that he would like it, too.