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One bad cover for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and five good ones

Penguin’s latest cover for that enduring children’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is about as popular as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip. My sources tell me Roald Dahl is turning in his grave.

The cover of the new Penguin Modern Classics edition is targeted at adults. No Charlie, no Mr Wonka – just a pink doll-like girl and some sort of Mad Men-style mum in the background. Where’s the poor kid? Where’s the crazy factory owner? Where’s the blinkin’ chocolate?

It does indeed look like a cover for Lolita. It’s creepy and sexualised, and yet the story is about being poor and having a dream come true. Yes, the other kids are nasty little blighters but they are not disturbing. Perhaps Penguin simply wanted to stir up a hornets’ nest to breathe life into a 50-year-old book. It seems hardly necessary as every bookstore in the world offers a copy for sale and it’s just nine years since Johnny Depp starred in a movie adaptation.

Penguin’s Facebook page is a mess, littered with negative comments about the cover. The top comment simply reads: “Sorry, I wouldn’t buy the book with this cover.”

It’s a dangerous thing to mess with books that people always associate with their childhood – this is one of those books. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory first edition 1964The 1964 first edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from 1964.

A Puffin edition from 1978.

An Unwin edition from 1980

Another Puffin edition from 1985

A Viking edition from 1995

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