Thursday, May 21, 2009


A few days ago, T. and I were getting ready for bed and she surprised me by triumphantly presenting Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as her next book. She had watched the movie with a babysitter, and now she was hungry for more.

I was thrilled, and not just because she previously favored a schlocky series of books about fairies produced by a conglomerate under the penname "Daisy Meadows." Charlie was an important book for me, one of the first I read and loved by myself, and I couldn't wait to see how she would react to Charlie's basic decency, the loathsome habits of the book's other children and, of course, the wonders of Willy Wonka's factory.

So far, it's gone as well as I hoped. She's rapt. After the first couple chapters, she regaled co-reader L. and myself with a rundown of what had happened so far. "The boy loves chocolate... and, and, and he only gets it once a year, so when he birthday come, he puts the bar in a box! And looks at it! And, and, and then he pulls wrapper and takes a small, tiny bite..."

Last night, we were reading -- watch out, a spoiler is ahead -- the part where the golden tickets are loose in the world and Charlie is about to get his annual birthday bar. T., who had been squirmy, stills and presses her round little body against mine. Her blue eyes are bright and avid. She is sure Charlie is going to get the ticket right then and there, and she gets progressively more excited as the book builds up toward the moment when the boy pulls the wrapper off his Wonka's Whipplescrumptious Fudgemallow Delight.

I almost feel bad for her -- but at the same time, her entire being is vividly conveying the thrill and discovery of reading, one of my highest aspirations for her. A few years ago, there were a lot of reasons to think that I wouldn't know T. at five. Now there are a lot of reasons to think I won't know T. at 10 or 15. I certainly won't see how her story comes out.

But as I read a great book with a budding great reader, it's clear that, sometimes, the end isn't as important as how you get there. The stuff in between is exciting, too. Charlie rips off the wrapper, revealing only chocolate, and T. is immediately and vocally appalled. "Daddy!" she shouts, as if I were personally responsible for throwing yet another disappointment in poor Charlie's path. T. is furious, but I am secretly and silently delighted. The story continues. Sweetness lies ahead.

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