Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl

Published by Puffin (first published 1972)

ISBN 0142404128 (ISBN13: 9780142404126)

 Charlie Bucket has WON Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and is on his way to take possession of it. in a great glass elevator! But when the elevator makes a fearful whooshing noise, Charlie and his family find themselves in splendid orbit around the Earth. A daring adventure has begun with the one and only Mr Willy Wonka leading the way!

Charlie, Grandpa Joe and Mr Wonka use the great glass elevator to pick up Charlie’s parents and remaining grandaparents to bring them back to the factory, but things go awry, and they end up in orbit above the earth, where they encounter vermicious knids on the space hotel, save astronauts and the hotel workers (much to the US President’s delight).

They also face gnoolies and Minusland in an attempt to rescue one of the grandparents who took too much potion and ended up subtracting herself from existence!

Mr Wonka has once again shown that adventures aren’t just for kids, even the adults can join in the fun.

Another fantastical and whimsical story for young and old alike.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

Published by Puffin ISBN: 0142401080

 Charlie Bucket loves chocolate – and Mr Willy Wonka, the most wondrous inventor in the world, is opening the gates of his amazing chocolate factory to five lucky children. It’s the prize of a lifetime and all you have to do is find one of the five Golden Tickets. Charlie is the last lucky winner to join Willy Wonka in a tour of his factory – where some amazing surprises, both good and bad, await the children.

Roald Dahl has appealed to my son, and his class have read several of his classics, so I wasn’t surprised when he brought home Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for me to read to him.  I remember it being read to our Std 3 or 4 class when I was in primary school.

Roald Dahl has a wonderful way of bringing reality and fantasy together in a story that starts out realistic and turns into a fantasy, which gets deeper and darker as the story progresses, and Charlie’s visit to the chocolate factory is no different.  One by one all of the competition winners and picked off, and they have to be fixed in some way of other, whether it is by rolling them out with a rolling pin, or popping them with a pin… ok, exaggeration, but no doubt Mr Dahl would have loved that idea.

My son and I both enjoyed this story which is a great yarn for kids, with a subtle message about greed and big egos.

Dan Quixote, Boy of Nuevo Jersey

Daniel Tyler and Sandra Day Goldberg are opposite sides of the same coin. Dan is an artist and a dreamer who believes everything he reads in books, and Sandy is a practical girl with a strong sense of justice. Yet despite their differences, Dan and Sandy have been best friends since kindergarten. Now they are in eighth grade, and they must deal with pressure from both their teachers and their peers.

Their history teacher, Mrs. Fallon–also known as “The Dragon”–seems to enjoy belittling and failing her students. And Jade, the school bully and class queen bee, is trying to pressure Dan to do something he knows is wrong.

What’s more, Dan is in love with Gwen, and Sandy is beginning to wonder if she still has a place in her best friend’s life. Things go from bad to worse when Jade labels Dan the “Dork King of New Jersey” and spreads vicious gossip about him.

Can Dan and Sandy defeat the Dragon? Can they stop the bullying and gossip? Will Dan win Gwen’s heart? And how will Dan and Sandy’s friendship survive it all? 

I have to confess that I’ve never really read Middle Grade books, but I thought it was time to explore them a little, considering that my eldest child is heading towards that age bracket and it won’t be long before she starts having her own taste in books. I had no idea what to expect going in, but Dan Quixote pleasantly surprised me.

From the blurb I expected that Dan would be the narrator of the story, however, it’s actually Sandy whose point of view the story is told from. She is the long suffering best friend who loves Dan, as a mate of course, and while she might roll her eyes at his belief in fiction, she is willing to stand by his side as  he goes on his adventures.

The story line seemed really fitting for the age group and deals with the difficult subject of bullying from both a fellow student, as well as a teacher who likes to make life difficult for everyone in her class. I think it’s an important topic for kids of all ages, even adults, and one that I haven’t seen dealt with so well in awhile. I think Arnold brings a light touch to the topic, one that provides a great example for kids to follow.

The main characters were all really neat kids, unique and true to themselves, trying to find their place in the world. I felt like the author handled that angle well, by showing how important it is to be who you are and that following the crowd isn’t necessarily going to mean you are happy – being you is what will bring you happiness, once you’ve accepted who you are.

Jade, the bullying character, was the only one who seemed a little out of place. It felt to me like she was a little older than the others, or at least quite advanced in her bullying skills. She was a great villain, as was the Dragon, who had her own things going on – I liked that the story showed that sometimes there are reasons behind why a person acts the way they do, and that perhaps if you take the time to find those out, you can make a difference.

Another positive was the way a boy/girl friendship played such a central focus to the story, while not being a romantic relationship at all. I like seeing boys and girls being just friends.

So, I guess to sum it up there are a lot of great messages in this book, delivered in an amusing story without being preachy or too in your face. I think it would definitely appeal to the middle grade reader, and even as an adult I found things to like. I will probably read this with my eldest in the near future.

Fall Mixed Up

Here’s one for the kids!

I got this via NetGalley because I was feeling pretty tired of most of the stories we have in the house. We are well overdue some more kids books and I thought, why not?

Release date: September 1st, 2011
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
Author: Bob Raczka. Illustrated by Chad Cameron

“Every Septober,
Every Octember, 
Fall fills my senses 
with scenes to remember.”

“Bears gather nuts. 
Geese hibernate. 
Squirrels fly south 
in big figure eights.”

Fall is all mixed up in this silly book from Bob Raczka! Can you find his mistakes in the words and pictures?

From the moment I opened it up, all the way to the end of this book, my kids were smiling. My eldest is 6, and the middle one 2.5, and they both enjoyed it, though it’s definitely geared towards the elder of them. She loves puzzling over things and trying to figure out what’s not quite right.

Despite this being tailored very much for the American market, over here in NZ we are exposed to enough of the culture that my 6 year old could understand about Halloween and Thanksgiving. I did have to explain a few things to her, but after the first read through she had it sorted and loved pointing out all the things that were wrong with the pictures.

The illustrations were delightful, they flowed really well and in particular we liked the bears gathering nuts and the flying squirrels. My six year old laughs a lot whenever we read it, and it has quickly become a favourite in our house. Since getting the ARC for this a few weeks ago, barely a day has gone by when there hasn’t been a request to have this story read, they simply adore it.

I’d recommend  it to anyone with school aged kids, particularly those in the US. It’s a quick, fun read with great illustrations that get’s the kids thinking.