After the hair-raising adventure that Charlie Bucket underwent in the opening novel, Dahl picks up right where he left off, ready to entertain young readers again. When last we spoke of Charlie, he was loading his entire family into the glass elevator from his newly-acquired chocolate factory. With Willy Wonka and Grandpa Joe helping at the controls, Charlie welcomes Mr. and Mrs. Bucket, Grandpa George, and Grandmas Josephine and Georgina into the machine before it blasted off. Heading up, up, up into the sky, Wonka explains the wonders of his machine, which can go in any direction and into any room whatsoever. Wonka is eager to show off the elevator’s prowess, blasting it into space, where the group is spotted by a US rocket ship full of astronauts. Reporting back to the White House, these astronauts speak about the peculiar nature of the unidentified ship in front of them. The President of the United States is sure they are astronaut spies that cannot be trusted, even from afar. As Wonka and Charlie dock the elevator onto the International Space Hotel USA, more drama ensues when an extra-terrestrial being is seen wandering around. Knowing much about space and its inhabitants, Wonka helps protect the aforementioned US ship and the containment pod carrying workers for the hotel, before blasting back towards earth. Upon arrival back at the factory, Wonka seeks to enliven Charlie’s grandparents, in hopes that they will get out of bed and help run the factory. Stubborn and old, George, Georgina, and Josephine refuse, but are subject to a product that Willy Wonka has been using inside the factory walls; a pill that can reverse the aging process. When the three greedy grandparents take matters into their own hands, Wonka must use another product, with the opposite effect, to calibrate their ages again. Just as Charlie thinks the drama might be done, there comes a special letter from Washington, with another round of adventures for everyone to enjoy. Dahl’s creative juices were surely flowing and shall never be bottled as he creates more fun for the young and those who feel it in the bones.
While not as crafty as the first Charlie Bucket story, Dahl brings readers into the fold with another outlandish tale that pushes the limits of the imagination. That said, it does clip along nicely and utilises some of the minor characters from the opening tale (grandparents) in a more hands-on role, which is sure to pique the interest of the reader. Dahl chooses to focus more on the action-adventure in this book than the slowly evolving adventure that touches the heart, which I did not care for as much, but still remain happy to see how things developed. The novel poses fewer themes and lessons than pure, silly entertainment for the reader. I can see what this was never picked up for a movie (to the best of my knowledge), but can only hope that if it is, Johnny Depp is kept away from the project, as he left a new generation with a sour taste in their mouths that no Oompa Loompa could fix. While the ending does leave room for more adventures and the characters could make for an interesting mix within the factory walls, the passing of Roald Dahl in 1990 has made that a natural impossibility. But, with a score of other novels for children to explore, there is hope that the new generation will look back to what entertained their parents and grandparents, finding richness in stores that did not require vampires, wizards, or even Middle School.
Kudos, Mr. Dahl for touching so many lives across the generations with simple ideas that flourish into magic.