So I wanted to start a section of my blog focusing on sources of inspiration, that is, what inspires me as a writer and what I hope can inspire others as artists. The first idea that came to mind was a subtopic for the books I’ve read that have motivated me in my writing, sort of like a virtual bookshelf. Then I thought, what better book to start off with than the one that first inspired me to become a writer? So here is a brief review of one of my favorite books as a child: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.
In case you haven’t yet read the book (first published in 1964) or seen either of the movie adaptations (released in 1971 and 2005), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tells the story of Charlie Bucket, a kind and honest young boy of very humble origins who has always been intrigued by the mysterious chocolate factory located near his home, run by the legendary Willy Wonka. One day, Charlie’s wildest dreams come true when he becomes one of only five lucky children around the world to find a golden ticket inside a Wonka’s chocolate bar, constituting an invitation from the famous chocolatier himself to visit his factory for an entire day. Fantastical adventures ensue as Charlie and the others follow Mr. Wonka on a magical tour through the strange facility, at the end of which lies a special grand prize for only one very lucky child. How will things fare for our hero and the four terrible brats as they discover the wonders of Wonka’s chocolate factory? It’s the greatest adventure of young Charlie’s life, and he can’t wait to find out!
I first read this book when I was nine years old, at the recommendation of my mother. Though I was no stranger to reading, it was the first book I ever read that was written by Roald Dahl, and consequently, it became the reason he was my favorite author growing up. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fulfilled a great wish I had throughout my entire childhood: to escape into a magical world far from the realm of reality.
As I read the story, I lived vicariously through the character of Charlie Bucket, who had the amazing opportunity to step out of his ordinary life and spend a day in a land of fantasy. Today, I look at him as an excellent role model for young children: humble, honest and with a vivid imagination. Willy Wonka is a wonderfully eccentric character, likely intended as a personification of the dreamer mentality lost on many of the “normal” adults in the author’s stories; and the four children joining Charlie on his adventure have such ridiculously bratty personalities that it can only make for some hilarious scenarios during the course of the factory tour.
But it wasn’t just the story that I loved; it was the way it was told. Mr. Dahl always had a very creative style of narrating his children’s books that appealed as much to his young target audience as to the metaphorical child in each of his older readers, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is no exception. Every time one of the bratty golden ticket winners gets into trouble, the situation is resolved in a unique and comical way as could only come from a mind as imaginative as Dahl’s. The songs sung by the factory’s Oompa Loompa workers are not only funny, but actually teach valuable lessons, though it’s safe to assume the advantages of reading over watching television and the prominent role that parents play in raising spoiled children are already common knowledge. Even the various candies and chocolate delights described throughout the story sound so delicious and inventive, you wish you could reach into the pages and try some for yourself (except maybe the chewing gum).
Though I was already a longtime fan of fiction, this was the first book to make me want to write stories of my own. The joy I felt when escaping into Charlie’s world inspired me to follow Mr. Dahl’s lead and create magical adventures for others to enjoy, and for that, I will always admire him as one of my all-time favorite authors. With its wild twists, eccentric characters and endless supply of phizz-whizzing fun, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a great read for the imaginative child in any reader, and especially for the dreamer in every fiction writer. One could expect nothing less from the world’s most scrumdiddlyumptious storyteller!