Violet, you’re turning violet, Violet!

I have started and not finished so many books recently. Here is a brief list.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – I want to reread the books now that we have heard the whole story (plus what she’s said in interviews), but I just don’t have the heart to do it right now.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle – Are you ready for this? This is going to shock some of you. I was going to wait and say this when I actually finished it, but who knows when that will happen. I have never been able to finish this book. I like the Austin series so much more than I like the Time Quartet (I noticed now they are packaging An Acceptable Time as the “fifth in the series.” Very strange). This is the year, though. I will finish.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – I will finish this one, too. But it hasn’t captured my attention. I feel more like I ought to read it than I want to read it. I feel like breathing a long sigh whenever I pick it up. Siiiiiiiiiiigh.

Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light by Brian Kolodiejchuk – I can’t even finish a book on Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa, you guys! What is wrong with me?

I also checked out several books I am remarkably uninterested in, including Extras by Scott Westerfeld (I hadn’t realized it was part of a series when I checked it out) and Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen. Siiiiiiiiiiiigh.

The other night I was practically in tears because of this. I can’t get into anything. Nothing holds my attention. And so, in despair, Mike pulled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory off the shelf and read the first few chapters to me. I had wanted to read it closer to Christmas, but Charlie was the answer. I was able to finish a book.

Earlier in the month, Mike did a presentation on Roald Dahl, and he had to select a passage out of one of Roald Dahl’s books to read. I campaigned pretty hard for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the scene where Charlie finds the Golden Ticket. Mike opted for something else, and I told him he was dead wrong, that all you need to know about Roald Dahl is in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Note: I have never done a project on Roald Dahl, and I know nothing other than what Mike has told me and what a quick peruse of Wikipedia can teach me. But I still think he was wrong. Every time I read the scene where Charlie finds the ticket, I cry. What scene could possibly be better? What more do you need to know? (It is possible, gentle reader, that Mike chose not to read that passage because he knew of its dangers. I certainly couldn’t read it out loud.)

Roald Dahl has many wonderful books, and for a long time I would have said that The BFG was my favorite. But now, more than any of the others, I return to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when I want some comfort. I want to believe in a world in which magical chocolate factories can exist, a world in which a good, brave little boy wins all the chocolate he can eat (instead of starving), a world where horrible bratty children (and their parents) get what is coming to them. When I read it, I remember reading it for the first time, how I kind of believed that maybe there was a chocolate factory like Wonka’s in the world, and that maybe, like Charlie, I’d get to go there some day. Part of me still believes this, for the record. It’s the part of me that wouldn’t settle down to read those other books.

Last year we gave a copy of the new movie to Mike’s niece, and we all watched it together. Mike’s brother-in-law, at one point, said, “This is kind of dark.” It’s true. It is a dark story. One of the chapters is entitled “The Family Begins to Starve,” and it features Charlie trying to save his energy because he gets so little food and it is so cold outside. I think that the story is better for it, though, because it makes what happens that much more powerful. (I will add that the matter-of-fact bleakness of The Cupboard Under the Stairs is what made me think that J.K. Rowling was basically doing the same thing as Roald Dahl.) We want to believe that good children will be rewarded and that they can save their families from starvation. A story like this, I think, helps fight the darkness, because it helps us all face the facts of how difficult life can be for some people, and it helps us believe that redemption is possible. I may not be able to help a poor family by taking them to a magical chocolate factory, but what I can give may be magical for them indeed.

I wanted to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in December, because it captures that sense of wonder and amazement that I associate with Christmas. It’s too early for Christmas, though (Thanksgiving First!), so I will settle for the wonder and amazement of just being a kid again (and an adult who believes in the magic of redemption), if only for a night.

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