The Book Cover Outrage

I’m sure you will probably know which particular outrage has prompted me to write this. In case you didn’t, here is the new cover for Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Penguin UK.

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Source: Penguin UK

If this is the first time you are seeing this, then take a moment. If not read ahead …….

I wouldn’t have probably known about this at all had it not been for my recent decision to join twitter. Knowing aside, I got to witness the outrage first hand. The comments from the people ranged from “it sexualises the character” to “where is the chocolate/factory ??”.

Penguin’s explanation for the cover was provided in their blog post as follows

This new image for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory looks at the children at the centre of the story, and highlights the way Roald Dahl’s writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life, ready for Charlie’s debut amongst the adult titles in the Penguin Modern Classics series.

Ok you cannot disagree when someone wants to interpret something in their own way and see things through a different lens. There can be no better example of what contrast individual interpretations can bring – here is the deluxe edition by Penguin USA.

Where do I stand on this issue ?

Personally I have never attached a lot of importance to book covers, special editions, etc. – its just never entered my decision-making process while buying a book (such a blasphemous thing to say in the blogosphere !). After having bought a book for various other reasons, I may admire the cover – I have even discussed the covers of certain books with my mother – but thats about it.

Coming to this particular cover, I’m not going to say its “sexual” – that just seems too extreme a statement. But I have to confess that the kid’s stare does creep me out – something about it is very unnerving.

To the question of whether the story can be viewed at from a fresh perspective – of course it can ! Any work of literature leaves itself open to numerous interpretations but isn’t that something we want to leave to the readers ? If a sensitive reader wants to read between the lines, good for him/her but if someone wants to just treat it as a light read, so be it. To employ the book cover to suggest a perspective seems unnecessary and a tad overbearing.

As the outrage dies down, it seems that even a widely acceptable cover wouldn’t have been able to generate this much publicity. This one has taken the internet by storm and now even finds itself sharing space with others in a list of 5 worst book covers ever.

What do you think of this ? Agree ? Disagree ? Toeing the middle line ? Type away!

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19 thoughts on “The Book Cover Outrage

  1. Quite honestly, I like it! I think there is something deeply unnerving in Dahl’s writing anyway. I haven’t read this book in years and years, I’m contemplating getting this one so I won’t feel like I’m being judged for reading a kid’s book in public!
    Ps. About to write a post on Dahl myself- troublesome man still causes ALL THE DRAMA.

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    1. People judge no matter what you do ! Makes reading in public places a nightmare especially when they start peering over your shoulder !!
      Its been years since I read Dahl too but not too inclined to go back – don’t know why. And you are the 1st person I have come across who likes it 😀 make sure you tell it to Penguin UK – they need it now ! 😉

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      1. I have it in my Book Depository basket now so if they pull it off the shelves, I’ll still have a copy! MUAHAHAHA!
        Oh lordy, I hate the reading over the shoulder thing. Especially if I’m reading some horrific Highland romance novel on my Kindle and they’re up to the good part. True story there =P

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I do judge a book by it’s cover–it’s not the most important thing, but it matters. And I wouldn’t want that disturbing doll-child staring vacantly into my soul every time I picked up the book. But isn’t that what variety is for? So you can choose?

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  3. I don’t like the cover, it seems like a bizarre choice to me but fortunately it doesn’t make any difference to the wonderful words inside. Since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is such a well-known book I suspect it won’t make any difference to the sales but if I had a choice I’d choose a different edition.

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  4. Interesting post! I agree with you on that the outrage brought the new edition more publicity than a “safe” cover would have. It’s been years since I last read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I do remember that it wasn’t all happy-go-lucky – it had also darker themes which the new cover highlights. I feel that the new cover fits in with the other covers in the Modern Classics series, but that it also does give a slightly misleading impression on what the book is like (in my opinion). So I guess I’m more in the middle line with this cover.

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  5. haha I love most of the covers of the penguin modern classics but I hate that cover- they could easily have picked a less creepy cover to represent the “darker themes” of roald dahl.
    I plan on buying the children editions anyway with the original illustrations.

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  6. While Roald Dahl had his problems and his books contained a lot of dark humor (which I absolutely love!), I find the allusions to pedophilia in this new cover and in the most recent Charlie and the Chocolate Factory not only inappropriate but a misrepresentation of Dahl’s genius.

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  7. Oh,I pay great attention to special editions,covers and so forth! For instance,I love Folio Society books and I plan in the future to also have a collection of books in the Penguin Modern Classics and Vintage Classics editions.
    However I feel like you,as far as this cover is concerned; the image is very creepy and doesn’t strike me as ‘sexual’.Nowadays everything seems to be causing an outrage! That was what I thought when I first read an article on this very cover on the DailyMail.

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    1. Yes I know you do ! But I guess thats just the way I am – in fact thats the way everyone in my family is – we hold on to every single book we have ever bought in our lives but don’t pay attention to the aesthetics while buying 🙂
      Tell me about it ! Recently in India a section outraged over a traditional festival suddenly terming it “patriarchal” and “regressive” – where do these things start ??

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  8. I hate it! And I’m one of the people who does feel it’s sending a sexual message – and not a good one. I would certainly not put a cover like this in a school library or give the book to a child. I honestly think Penguin have made a mistake with this – they may have got lots of publicity but I doubt it’ll turn into lots of sales of this edition. Hope not anyway – the last thing we need on our over-sexualised society is childrens’ classics being revamped to look like this.

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    1. Though I don’t fully agree with the sexual part as I mentioned in the post, I do feel that its not apt for schools – more than anything, will it draw children towards it in the 1st place ? Plus have to agree with you on the sales – doubtful !

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  9. This gives me the creeps. Even if they wanted to highlight the darker side of the book, they could have done it without such an overtly sexually provocative cover especially knowing the audience that will mainly read the text.

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