Fifty years after Charlie Bucket first unwrapped the coveted Golden Ticket granting him entry into Willy Wonka’s magical domain, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is celebrating its golden anniversary in fine form. To date, the book has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide in 55 languages, and spawned two film adaptations, an opera, and the 2013 musical currently enjoying a successful run in London’s West End.
The anniversary “gives us an opportunity to introduce a whole new audience of readers to Charlie,” said Jed Bennett, director of preschool and young readers marketing at Penguin Young Readers Group, which publishes the paperback edition. Beginning April 1, Penguin will kick off a year-long celebration with a host of initiatives in bookstores and schools as well as online.
- Candy Contest: Along with its partners, Dylan’s Candy Bar – a chain of boutique candy shops – and nonprofit First Book, Penguin is launching the National Golden Ticket Sweepstakes on April 1. As in the book, five winners will play Willy Wonka for a day – in this case, at the Dylan’s Candy Bar location in New York City. “They’ll get to go behind the scenes, be part of our taste testing, co-host a birthday party, merchandise the sales floor, and fill the candy bins,” said owner Dylan Lauren, who credits Charlie as the inspiration for her stores. “It will be a real hands-on experience.”
First Book will help promote the sweepstakes through its social media channels, and for every entry in the sweepstakes, Penguin will make a donation to First Book. “By working with First Book and helping those who don’t have the opportunity to get books, we are tapping into another major theme in Charlie: the underprivileged kid winning,” Bennett said.
- Sweet on Social Media, Social Justice: New this year, the Roald Dahl Miss Honey Social Justice Award, named for the teacher in Dahl’s Matilda, is administered by the American Association of School Librarians and will be sponsored by Penguin Random House for its first five years. The award will go to an AASL member librarian who has collaborated with a teacher on a project, event, or program to further social justice using school library resources. The 2014 award winner – who, for this inaugural award, must incorporate Charlie into the project – will be honored on June 28 at the ALA annual conference in Las Vegas.
A national social media campaign, also starting on April 1, will feature trivia questions about the Charlie book and musical, and invite authors and celebrities to tweet their thoughts on Dahl’s story. Penguin is also working with the recipe-sharing site Tastebook.com to encourage celebrities to share their Charlie-inspired recipes. While these plans are still in the preliminary stage, said Bennett, “We’ve reached out to a number of celebrity chefs to create a birthday cake.”
- Publishing Party: Penguin Young Readers Group and Random House Children’s Books (which publishes Charlie in hardcover) are releasing several new or updated Charlie-themed books. The anniversary hardcover edition, with an introduction by Jon Scieszka, and the anniversary paperback are out now. Due in August are a gift edition with Blake’s illustrations, a commemorative edition with artwork by Joseph Schindelman, who illustrated the first U.S. edition, and Roald Dahl’s Doodle Book. And September sees the publication of Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket, and Roald Dahl’s Greatest Creation by Lucy Magan, with never-before-seen material from the archives of the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, England.
- Treats, Tees, and More: Nestle will reveal a new treat in its Wonka line, which already includes a Chocolate Waterfall Bar, Triple Dazzle Caramel Bag, and other sweets. Dylan’s Candy Bars will roll out Charlie-inspired stationery, a Wonka-like top hat, pencil set, T-shirt, and giant chocolate bar pillow, all bearing an anniversary logo. Products will be sold online and in Dylan’s brick-and-mortar stores, and Lauren said her company is “trying to get product picked up by bookstores.”
- A Satisfying Celebration: While many fans are expected to mark the anniversary this year, at least one of them has a keen personal interest in the occasion. “My grandfather once said that he found that finishing a book to be an immensely difficult task, and that he would wander around afterwards in a daze ‘like a mother who has lost her children,’ ” said Luke Kelly, Dahl’s grandson and the U.S. representative for the Roald Dahl literary estate. “Well, I would say that this ‘child’ has grown up and lived for 50 years in a million imaginations, and yet it feels just as fresh, pure and young as the day it was born from his pencil.”
If his grandfather were alive today, how does Kelly suppose Dahl might celebrate? “I suspect he would help himself to a bottle of 50-year-old Bordeaux… and then he would have a chocolate bar… and then, most probably, he would amble up the garden path with its canopy of pleached lime trees towards his writing hut,” Kelly said. And the next great work of children’s literature might begin.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, illus. by Quentin Blake, introduction by Jon Scieszka. Knopf, $15.95 Mar. 978-0-375-81526-3
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Trade Paperback 50th Anniversary Edition by Roald Dahl, illus. by Quentin Blake. Puffin, $6.99 Mar. ISBN 978-0-14-241031-8
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Gift Edition by Roald Dahl, illus. by Quentin Blake. Knopf, $27.99 Aug. 978-0-375-83197-3
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Commemorative Edition by Roald Dahl, illus. by Joseph Schindelman. Knopf, $17.99 Aug. 978-0-394-81011-9
Roald Dahl’s Doodle Book, illus. by Quentin Blake. Grosset & Dunlap, $12.99 Aug. 978-0-448-48160-9
Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket, and Roald Dahl’s Greatest Creation by Lucy Mangan, introduction by Sophie Dahl. Puffin, $19.99 Sept. 978-0-14-751348-9