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Title: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Series: Charlie Bucket #2
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Childrens Fiction
The story picks up where the previous book left off, with Charlie and family aboard the flying Great Glass Elevator after Willy Wonka has rewarded him with the ownership of his chocolate factory. The Elevator accidentally goes into orbit, and Mr. Wonka docks them at the Space Hotel USA. Their interception of the hotel is mistaken by approaching astronauts and hotel staff in a Commuter Capsule and listeners on Earth (including the President of the United States) as an act of space piracy and they are variously accused of being enemy agents, spies and aliens. Shortly after their arrival, they discover that the hotel has been overrun by dangerous, shape-changing alien monsters known as The Vermicious Knids. The Knids cannot resist showing off and reveal themselves by using the five hotel elevators (with one Knid in each of them) and spell out the word “SCRAM”, giving the group time to evacuate. As the group leaves, a Knid follows the Great Glass Elevator and tries to break it open, but to no avail, which results in the Knid receiving a bruise on its backside and hungering for payback.
Meanwhile, with the Great Glass Elevator’s passengers gone, the President allows the Commuter Capsule to dock with the Space Hotel. Upon entry by the astronauts and the Space Hotel staff, the Knids attack by eating fourteen of the staff, prompting an immediate evacuation by the rest of the group. The Great Glass Elevator comes back just in time to see the entire Knid infestation coming in on the attack, bashing the Commuter Capsule to the point where the retrorockets cannot be fired to initiate immediate reentry and the communication antenna cannot keep the astronauts in communication with the President. Charlie suggests towing the Commuter Capsule back to Earth, and, despite a last attempt by the Knids to tow the two craft away to their home planet Vermes, in the process the Knids are incinerated in Earth’s atmosphere. Mr. Wonka releases the Commuter Capsule, while the Elevator crashes down through the roof of the chocolate factory.
Back in the chocolate factory, three of Charlie’s grandparents refuse to leave their bed. Mr. Wonka gives them a rejuvenation formula called “Wonka-Vite”. They take much more than they need (4 pills instead of 1 or 2), subtracting 80 years (which reduces their age by 20 years per pill). Two become babies, but 78-year-old Grandma Georgina vanishes, having become “−2”. Charlie and Mr. Wonka journey to “Minusland”, where they track down Grandma Georgina’s spirit. As she has no physical presence, Mr. Wonka sprays her with the opposite of “Wonka-Vite” – “Vita-Wonk” – in order to age her again. Mr. Wonka admits that it is not an accurate way to age a person, but the spray is the only way to dose “minuses”. Upon leaving Minusland, they discover that Grandma Georgina is now 358 years old. Using cautious doses of Wonka-Vite and Vita-Wonk, the three grandparents are restored to their original ages.
Finally, the President of the United States invites the family and Mr. Wonka to the White House to thank them for their space rescue. The family and Wonka accept the invitation (including the grandparents who finally agree to get out of their beds) and prepare to leave.
When I read the Charlie Bucket books back in elementary, middle and high school, I always enjoyed The Great Glass Elevator more than Chocolate Factory. Back then I think it was because of the SF elements (space, spaceships, aliens, negative land, etc) in Elevator that simply weren’t in Factory. So when I read the duology this year (Chocolate Factory was read in January) I was expecting to like Elevator more once again. Imagine my surprise when I got done this book and realized that Chocolate Factory is not only the better book but also more enjoyable.
Part of that is that the premise to this book is beyond even ridiculous. It’s hilarious and I still love it, but it just hit me that it WAS ridiculous this time around and so my enjoyment was lessened. I wasn’t able to enter into the silliness like Dahl intended. The other thing that lessened my enjoyment was that the other 3 grandparents played a part in the story this time and they were stinkers. Made me shake my head and wonder how Charlie turned out so well.
Other than that, I enjoyed the ever living daylights out of this. Willy Wonka is a genius who is always in control no matter the circumstances and Charlie is a smart boy who THINKS before he reacts. More kids need examples like that in their entertainment.