Charlie Bucket is still finding the golden ticket for a tour of Willie Wonka’s candy factory, almost 50 years after Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was originally published. A new movie prequel is in the works, starring Timothee Chalamet.
The book first came out just as I was proudly using my brand-new adult library card and thinking of myself as much too old to check out books from the children’s room. But my younger sister’s copy proved as impossible to resist as a Wonka bar, and it taught me a lesson I have been grateful for ever since — that no one is ever too old for children’s books.
For the good ones, anyway. My friend Kristie Miller, a biographer and historian, says revisiting the books she loved as a child is like going to a high school reunion. Some old friends have grown along with you and are more meaningful than ever, but others suddenly look immature, superficial and sugary.
When I read “The Secret Garden” and “Little Women” aloud to my children, I had the combined pleasure of remembering reading them myself, sharing them with another generation and seeing a depth and subtlety and structure I had never appreciated before.
As a child, when I loved a book, I went down the library shelves and read everything else I could find by the author. “The Secret Garden” led me to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “A Little Princess” (has there ever been a sweeter moment of vindication than when Miss Minchin finds out about the diamond mines?), and “Little Women” led me to its sequels and also to Lousia May Alcott’s “Eight Cousins,” “Jack and Jill” and “An Old-fashioned Girl.”
Now that the statute of limitations on elementary school truancy has expired, I can admit that the one time I ever pretended to be sick so I could stay home from school was to finish reading “The Phantom Tollbooth,” by Norton Juster. Any judge would find me innocent by reason of necessity, especially if, like me, he or she had read only the first half and was dying to know whether Milo would find Rhyme and Reason and solve the disputes between the kingdom of words and the kingdom of numbers.
I find something new to love in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” with every reading. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” by L. Frank Baum, and several of the…