Under the Covers

charlie+and+the+choclate+factoryYou’ll notice that there’ve been more book cover posts than reviews recently – I’m currently plodding my way through Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls (not the easiest read of my life) and trying to avoid reviewing books from last year. But anyway, I thought this new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover warranted a mini post since everyone seems to be talking/complaining about it.

I think a lot of the criticisms of this cover are just knee-jerk responses: ‘It’s not as good as Quentin Blake’, ‘What does it have to do with the story?’, ‘It’s pornographic!’, ‘It’s supposed to be a children’s book, this isn’t appropriate’. There’s obviously some basis to these critiques, but mostly they seem to be coming from old Roald Dahl fans – those familiar with the old Quentin Blake version. Some people just don’t like change. Certainly, it’s different to the covers illustrated by Quentin Blake, but is different always bad? It’s arguably a more mature cover, but, as many people have said already, the content of the book is very mature. Instead of trying to downplay the explicitness of the content with a younger cover, we need to be more aware of the ability for young readers to digest mature content. This can be seen across all kinds of media: film, music, books and games. But anyway, that’s a topic for another day…

As for it having ‘nothing to do with the story’, I disagree. The story explores the nature of children who have been spoiled and ruined by their parents – it’s about children, family and the relationship between the two. The cover represents that perfectly. Also, I don’t see how this could be inappropriate, and people who think it’s more closely linked to Lolita are out of their minds. Just because there’s a little blonde girl on the cover. Sigh.

All that being said, I don’t particularly like it. I prefer the Quentin Blake covers. But this all just comes down to modernisation, and targeting new readers and new markets. If you don’t like the cover, you don’t like the cover. I think this one just comes down to personal taste. Like it or lump it.

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2 thoughts on “Under the Covers

  1. Firstly, I think it’s obvious that this cover is in no way intended to replace the current Quentin Blake jacket aimed at the children’s market. Bookshops will order the Quentin Blake cover for their children’s section and this one would be shelved alongside Dahl’s equally celebrated fiction for adults (which you don’t mention).

    Objections fail to note that the cover image is a reference to a specific character, Veruca Salt, the most spoiled of the spoiled children.

    Perhaps what might be worth exploring, aside from the issue of taste, is whether different cover art encourages not just a different type of reader, but a differing reading. This artwork, placed alongside Dahl’s adult works, perhaps suggest we as adult readers might now encounter Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a lurid fairytale about children who have been corrupted, whose innocence is lost (so all this cross-referencing with Lolita might not be so far-fetched after all).

    Both film adaptations of the book famously ventured into its darkness, this adult classics cover follows suit.

    • You make a lot of really interesting points here. You’re right, I didn’t talk about the fact that bookshops will order both versions. I really just wanted to make a small contribution to the debate, and I find it really interesting that this book will available as well as the original Blake illustrated covers. However, I think it’s interesting to note that this book may replace other covers in the adult section – like this one for instance: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/roald+dahl/charlie+and+the+chocolate+factory/9450054/. Admittedly there aren’t many others though.

      Yeah, it’s fairly obvious that it’s supposed to be Veruca Salt, and it is indeed strange that nobody has mentioned this so far in the debate. The image matches her description in the book almost perfectly.

      I think your point about the cover affecting interpretation of the book is very interesting. Though, should it really be up to the publisher, particularly of a book written by an author already deceased and not part of the production process, to attribute a stronger meaning to particular themes? I’m a bit of a purist in this sense, I’m not altogether fond of such big changes independent of the author’s intention. In this case, I think the central theme is pretty clear, and adults reading this book are likely to take away the same meaning, regardless of the cover. I think this kind of cover art may influence children’s reading, but as you say, it isn’t targeting children is it?

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