We read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 4 nights of reading, and started on Charlie and the Glass Elevator right away... already a couple of chapters in. Super fun.
The Story: Charlie Bucket lives in a tiny house with his mother and father and both sets of grandparents. They are very poor - so poor that all four grandparents share one bed, and Charlie and his parents sleep on a mattress on the floor. They never get enough to eat, and save all year for Charlie's birthday present, which is one solitary chocolate bar that he savors and nibbles on for weeks.
They live in the same town as the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory, a place that makes the most fantastic chocolate and candy confections in the world. Ten years earlier, Mr. Wonka fired all of the workers after some severe corporate and candy espionage, and then mysteriously started production again, without ever unchaining the gates. No one ever leaves the factory anymore, and Mr. Wonka is never seen. It's tantalizingly secretive. Charlie dreams of having more chocolate, and walks past the factory every day on his way to school in order to smell the chocolate on the air.
One day, there is an announcement that five golden tickets are hidden in Wonka Candy bars throughout the world, and the children who find those golden tickets will get exclusive access to the factory, for one day only, and a lifetime supply of chocolate thereafter.
Of course, Charlie dreams of finding a Golden Ticket. When his birthday chocolate doesn't have one, he loses hope. Four of the Golden Tickets are found by other children (all of whom seem to be rather despicable in one way or another). Through a series of seeming miracles, Charlie finds the final Golden Ticket for himself the day before the factory visit is scheduled.
The factory, and the man behind the factory, Willy Wonka, are even more astounding than Charlie had ever dreamed. He and the other children (and their grown-up companions, including Charlie's 96 year-old Grandpa Joe, who was revitalized by the thought of the Chocolate Factory tour) have the adventure of their lives.
The Good: Wow. What a good read. The chapters are short, sometimes only a couple of pages, and the prose is not that challenging, so Evalina was able to read a couple of paragraphs per page with no difficulty (she could have read more, easily). We read up until Charlie found the Golden Ticket in one night, and then read about the adventures in the factory for the final three nights. The other children certainly are illustrations of wretched behavior, and I hope that Evalina learned something from reading about them. The oompa-loompas are funny in the book (though still somewhat creepy). Charlie and his family were truly deserving of the wonderful things that await them with Willy Wonka. Grandpa Joe is so spunky, I just love him. He never got out of bed until the thought of going with Charlie to the factory came into his head, and then he never showed his considerable age again. The illustrations were really fun, too. Just so recommended. Great book.
The Bad: The oompa loompas are kind of creepy. They sing songs each time something awful happens to one of the awful children, and those songs are ... creepy. The depictions of Charlie's hunger are heartbreaking. You really feel for him. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but something to keep in mind. The horrible children are really horrible, but even so, it could be disturbing to see the horrible things happen to them, without really knowing if they would be ok in the end. Those are the only bad things I can think of really.
The Verdict: Read this book. Amazon recommends it for ages 9-12, but I think it was perfect for the slightly younger set. It is not very long, and such a good read, it's fun for the child and parent alike. There are some teachable moments throughout the book (Don't be a brat like Veruca Salt, children. Don't be a glutton like Augustus Gloop), and some opportunities to put on some fun voices, if you so like (I do). Be warned, though - if your kid is anything like Evalina, they'll want to start reading the next book immediately, and you will, too.