Harry Cockburn: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been given a "creepy" new cover. Let’s judge it.

Is the new image more snozzcumber than Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight?

Have a look at the new cover Penguin has given to Roald Dahl’s children’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (below). What’s going on?  Who are they? Where’s the Chocolate Factory? Where’s Charlie? Whose knees are those?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

But before we get completely carried away with damning the confusing image, let’s check we know what the book is about.

Dahl’s children’s story is primarily about a poor young boy who steps into a psychedelic confectionary fantasy world owned by an aging eccentric.

The sensational landscape depicted is full of chocolate rivers, squirrels sorting nuts, children being accidentally shrunk, boats made of boiled sweets, and the whole place is populated by singing, cocoa-bean-addicted pygmies called Oompa-Loompas.

But instead of taking direction from the book’s colourful content, Penguin has gone with a cover image that wouldn’t look out of place in the “tragic life stories” department, and could easily be adorned with a title like “Mummy’s Little Failure”, or “Can’t buy me Love”.

According to Penguin, the cover isn’t even meant to depict either of the two girls in the novel either.

It is apparently designed to show how Dahl “manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life”.

The cover has generated unquantifiable fury among fans, who have denounced it as “sexualised” and “horrific”, while one said: “Is there time for a reprint? You’re destroying my childhood.”

Penguin’s Facebook page was loaded with imaginative hyperbole today. Clearly Dahl fans have a sound ability to express their exasperation with the world.

One user, named Iamjon Hearmeroar said: “I wouldn’t buy this book for Charles Manson or Jack The Ripper, let alone someone I actually liked! Horrific!

“Even the Marquise De Sade wouldn’t have chosen this image to adorn any of his works,” he added.

Ian-John Coughlan said: “How this was okayed at the numerous levels of publishing confounds us all. Lolita and the Lollipop Factory?”

But it was Joanne Harris, novelist and author of the best-selling Chocolat, who has displayed the largest capacity for outrage, tweeting: “Seriously, Penguin Books. Why not just get Rolf Harris to design the next one?”

In a statement the publisher said: “This design is in recognition of the book’s extraordinary cultural impact and is one of the few children’s books to be featured in the Penguin Modern Classics list.

“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.”

Designing a successful new cover for this vastly popular book was bound to be a difficult brief, but this does look like a spectacular failure - more snozzcumber than Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight.

Penguin’s Modern Classics range isn’t necessarily aimed at children, but they are precisely for whom Roald Dahl was writing, and perhaps that is why this combination is so jarring.

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