Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Author: Roald Dahl
Reader: Eric Idle
Short Review: Dahl’s award-winning children’s book read wonderfully by Eric Idle.
Long Review: Eric Idle does a fantastic job with the book. Fantastic. He’s a man who understands humor, kids, storytelling, and his own vocal and acting abilities. I picked this up at the library expecting a nice nostalgic trip back to Dahl’s universe. I knew Idle would do a good job, but I also knew I’d read this book many times, and had it read to me, and seen a couple of film adaptations of the story. I didn’t expect to be blown away by a book that blew me away when I was 6.
I should have known that Eric Idle would knock it out of the park. His diction is great, his accents are great, and he developed distinctive voices for each character. He doesn’t hold back at all–his reading is energetic and funny and passionate in all the best ways. I laughed out loud at several points while listening (which can be problematic when you commute via public transit like I do), so I can imagine that an engaged kid would be rolling around on the floor laughing at choice moments.
I don’t have kids, but I wouldn’t hesitate to play this for my nieces or nephew, who range in age from 5 though 12. There are a couple of words in the book that some parents may not want their children to hear–“ass” is used to refer to human anatomy at one point, and I’m sure some other words passed my notice. The book has received some sharp criticism over the years both for long sections describing the Bucket family’s poverty and for the depiction of bratty kids who receive strange punishments. I happen to think such criticisms are silly and give children too little credit for their strength, sensitivity, and abilities to reason and think in the abstract. You may want to take my opinion with a grain of salt, however, since I’m the type of liberal Auntie who almost always comes down in favor of a child’s autonomy and freedom. I am an Auntie who grew up with a bookshelf full of Dahl, Seuss, Tolkein, Sendak, L’Engle, and the like, afterall, so I guess it’s to be expected.