Penguin publishing got an earful via social media last week when it unveiled a 50th anniversary edition cover for "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" via Facebook.
The cover, which depicts a doll-like child sitting on her mother's lap staring blankly into the distance and dressed in saccharine-sweet pastel colors, upset many established fans of the book.
The photo update got 677 comments, mostly from readers who complained the new cover was too dark, sexualized the child, or otherwise didn't accurately represent Roald Dahl's most recognized work. "Lolita" and "Valley of the Dolls" jokes abounded.
"Where's Charlie, Mr. Wonka, or some aspect of the factory? It doesn't get to the essence of the story," Facebook user James Perkins commented. "This looks like an escapee from some weird children's beauty pageant. Even a picture of a melting chocolate bar would be far better."
"Being an illustrator I have to confess...I don't get the relationship of the image to the story in question....maybe I'm not highbrow enough," Facebook user Robin Carey commented.
The Washington Post said the choice and the response actually says a lot about the publishing industry and people who still hold physical, non-digital books in high regard.
"Good writing can make readers feel so possessive toward a book that they want nothing about it altered. And beyond that, familiar book covers serve as a kind of tether in a world of frenetic Twitter feeds and glowing smartphone screens," Post writer Sarah Kaplan reported. "Adults who would not want to be seen reading the story of a cheery jaunt through a candy factory might be more interested in the Modern Classics version, whose cover emphasizes Dahl’s dark commentary on parents who act like children and children who must parent themselves."1 comment on this story
"It isn't really a crossover book," author Giles Paley-Phillips told the BBC. "People want it to remain as a children's book."
Still, if boosting sales is what Penguin was after, the controversy might just have been its golden ticket, as some on Twitter speculated.
"Everyone is talking about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' now," Twitter user Sarah McIntyre tweeted. "They don't even have to print it to boost sales."
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