Charlie’s Creepy Cover

charlie and the chocolate factory cover

Penguin recently released a new cover of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory to mark the 50th anniversary of the classic children’s book. However authors and readers were left shocked. Critics described the cover as “overly-sexualised” and even “creepy”.

I loved Roald Dahl books as a kid. I spent hours reading Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator, The Witches, George’s Marvellous Medicine, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Twits and my personal favourite The BFG. I still have a copy of The Roald Dahl Treasury sitting on my bookcase today.

But if you actually go back and read most of Dahl’s stories you will notice that most are actually dark and a bit macabre. Its not exactly something a kid would notice. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is really a story about spoilt children and enabling parents. The Witches tells the story of a bunch of witches (obviously) who buy sweet shops as a way of attracting children so they can be turned into mice. George’s Marvellous Medicine is all about a boy trying to poison his gran. I remember having to read Pig in English class. At the time I thought it was hilarious. But at least four people die in that book. Even The BFG is about a bunch of giants that eat children.

Roald Dahl did not write nice children’s books. But it is only as an adult you realise how sick and twisted they really are. Personally I love that this cover creeps me out. It should.

But what do you think?
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31 thoughts on “Charlie’s Creepy Cover

  1. Wow! What a cover! And great post! Really made me think.
    I…oooh now the cover isn’t traditional in the sense that it links to Charlie in a way, but then as you phrased it perfectly, there’s the element of “spoilt children and enabling parents” which is shown, I guess by the cover.
    I actually like the cover. I like the unconventional.

  2. I agree but this cover is just not needed! The anniversary covers with Quiten Blake are beautiful already!

    1. I agree the covers by Quentin Blake are nice too. I think they have tried to do something similar to the Harry Potter books. Make one cover that appeals to kids and one that appeals to adults.

  3. I suppose that must be Verruca Salt. I don’t mind the style, but I’d rather the cover focused on one of the more central characaters – Charlie or Willie Wonka.

  4. This is a brilliant out of the box grabs your attention badass cover. The photograph has a powerful narrative on children and adults. I’m sure there has to be a cover for each of the characters: can’t wait to see the others!

  5. Wow! That cover certainly makes a statement. Like you, I grew up reading Roald Dahl’s books and loved them. You’re right there is an undertone to them that you only notice when you read them again as an adult, but I think that’s kind of good – it makes them real. Roald Dahl must have had such a vivid imagination. I guess if this cover gets people talking and gets people reading his books who missed out on them as a child, it can only be a good thing.

  6. I was a bit creeped out by the cover as well – it doesn’t suit what I always see when I think of the book. But you’re right – I liked Dahl as a kid but nowadays I find his stuff far too creepy, and wonder why on earth people made us read it. James and the Giant Peach, in particular, with the (rhino?) eating his parents and the abusive aunts… so yeah, that cover definitely suits the story, with the creepiness present in the moral of the story, and it doesn’t appear to be trying to attract children anyway. But still. I thought I was looking at a different book at first!

  7. I’ve heard that when Roald Dahl was alive he was approached about turning his books into films, in particular The Witches. His belief was that his stories should remain as books because they were to dark for children to see as films. Unfortunately, after his death people ignored his viewpoint and made the films anyway. As a massive Roald Dahl fan, I love reading his books but deciding to watch the films is always a hard choice for me.

  8. I thought the cover was an interesting choice, but I wasn’t sold on it after reading (presumably) the same article you did, that prompted this post.

    You’ve actually given a better rationale for the cover than the people who chose it, and that’s a bit worrying. CATCF *does* explore the problem of “spoilt children and enabling parents,” and a picture of a child dressed for a pageant, in the lap of her guardian, does provide some element of appropriately creepy foreshadowing. But the article in The Mail Online (again, I’m being presumptuous here–I don’t know where you saw the new CATCF cover) doesn’t go into even that much detail, it just makes reference to “twisted” parent and child relationships in the story.

    If “twisted” is the only word that’s used to describe the parent/child relationships in the book, and then it’s coupled with a picture of a blank-eyed, heavily made-up little girl, sitting on a faceless adult’s lap… I think the above cover is good if you already know the story of CATCF (or Roald Dahl’s work generally) but if not, Penguin’s explanation for the cover falls a bit short of the mark, for me. Unless I already knew the story, that cover might make me think that CATCF is a story about children being exploited sexually, and that might put me off reading it.

    I mean, I already read Nabokov’s “Lolita”. I already did one round of weeping for a fictional character who was sexually abused out of having a childhood. Once was enough, thanks.

    Maybe you should leave a link to your blog in the comments section under the Mail’s article. Not that they’d allow you to do so, probably… but it would get the right idea across, re: the cover.

  9. I was a bit creeped out myself when I saw the cover, but you made a good point about the creepiness already inherent in the stories. As a child reading _Matilda_, I was frustrated by Miss Trunchbull’s bullying and Matilda’s parents’ invective, but those elements are even more terrifying now that I’m an adult and know more about authority figures abusing their power. Dahl knew how to use macabre and soberingly real elements in his stories. Maybe it’s time for the covers to reflect his honesty.

  10. I totally agree with you. One of the great things about Roald Dahl I think is that there is so much sort of twisted stuff – I always felt like it’s by design, to make kids feel uncomfortable and ultimately end with them beginning to examine the reasons WHY those things made them feel uncomfortable on their own. Or at least that was what they accomplished for me – Dahl’s books started me thinking about big things like death, abuse, poverty, desperation, and a whole host of other things, and gave me an age-appropriate context in which to begin to grapple with these massive, terrifying issues a whole lot sooner than I would have on my own. And honestly I think I’m a lot better off now for it.

    That said, it’s definitely a cover designed for adults. I don’t think it would catch a child’s eye in the least – but it certainly invokes all the same uncomfortableness that I felt all those years ago when I read it, only now in a more adult way.

  11. So interesting, firstly, thank you for stopping by my blog, but even in my post, I am going through that same thought, the things we innocently accepted in our childhood, now as we look back as adults, we recognise it isn’t what we thought it was. Doesn’t it feel as if as kids we were simply lied to about a lot of things? It is great though, that we have the opportunity as adults to select the sense from the nonsense as we progress. Excellent post – absolutely love it.

  12. Not worried about changing the cover, but as you mentioned,it is slightly more sexual than may be comfortable. I think we hav enough problems these days, safe guarding young children without something like this. True, to most people its harmless, its the others I worry about how it might affect them…

  13. I agree with thirty87 – there’s got to be more covers, each with a different Golden Ticket child and their parent/guardian.

    I really like this cover. I don’t think it’s anything overtly sexual; to me, it’s much more unnerving, with Veruca dressed up like a pageant kid, with those dull, lifeless doll eyes. To me, it’s realism, because if you flip through the television channels, you’ll come across little girls who look just like this, dressed up like tiny soap opera actresses, their eyes devoid of life or happiness. I can’t wait to see what they come up with for Mike.

    By the way, thanks for visiting my blog, and for the like!

  14. Goofy cover – probably marketing decided to try and ramp up sales…like every year there aren’t enough as this is required reading in so many of them…gotta appeal to the new audience.
    Many classic children’s stories are quite grim and dark with many levels. Those layers are probably what makes those stories live forever?

  15. I agree, but the Brothers Grimm were also very macabre. The original Grimms Tales were old folk tales gathered from Germany and central Europe, some of which had pre Christian origins. I think Disney has a lot to answer for by prettying up the tales!

  16. You are so right – it is Creepy, but it is the sort of Creepy that makes you want to keep looking, even though you know you shouldn’t. My husband recently went hunting for a cd of Danny the Champion of the World. You are so right about the darkness in the stories – this one is lovely, in fact, but the single parent is a poacher and teaches Danny all sorts of naughtiness. In the end they triumph over the baddy, but there are times when you wonder.

  17. yes, I like the slightly creepy undertone too, with the obviously spoiled child. There is also a “Stepford Wives” flavour to this image. I would have wanted some chocolate on the cover though 🙂

  18. I guess it makes me wonder what the book is about…and having read the book, I don’t feel the cover really matches most of the story. I agree that Dahl’s fiction has dark undercurrents, but this book is Charlie’s story…why put this on the cover? I’m still a fan of the book, and all of his work. Matilda is my favorite. Says all there is to say about the power of reading, teaching, and having just one beautiful Miss Honey who believes in us. Take care and keep writing! 🙂

  19. As a mother I now wonder the stories I read to my children. My boyfriend always tells me there’s meanings behind things that I do not see or refuse to see as he says… but seeing this post I see he isn’t as crazy as I thought. Thank you for the insight.


  20. I agree with you that there is nothing ‘nice’ or ‘sweet’ (traditionally at least) about Roald Dahl’s stories, and I think you get a sense of this as a child, but reading them as an adult you even wonder whether they were ever meant for children to begin with. That being said, I find this particular cover especially creepy, probably because children’s beauty pageants are just distasteful to me, but then for this particular book, that’s not necessarily an inappropriate image, I’m just not sure I’d want that it lying around in my home.

  21. I felt a strong reaction to that cover on first viewing and still do. I think yes, you’re right, it should be unsettling, although it does feel adult and sexual somehow, and that I think is ill-fitting and irrelevant to the story, unless you’re into looking for that kind of subtext. I’d love to see (despite my inextricable love for Dahl and Blake as a pair) a modern set of cover designs that do completely fit the atmosphere of the contents.

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