Not everyone loved Dahl’s work or thought it was good for children. One of his most prominent critics was Eleanor Cameron, a fellow children’s author. In 1972 she wrote an article published in The Horn Book which looked at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the context of Marshal McLuhan‘s theories about media. Among other things, she wrote that Charlie was “one of the most tasteless books ever written for children.” Dahl couldn’t resist the bait and fired back. The resulting controversy is well-documented on the Horn Book website*, and may have contributed to the evolution of the Oompa-Loompas in subsequent printings.
* As the Horn Book website is currently returning a 404 error for the page, I’ve linked to it on Archive.org. The other links all still work.
- McLuhan, Youth, and Literature, Part I (October 1972)
Cameron takes on Marshall McLuhan and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
- McLuhan, Youth, and Literature, Part II (December 1972)
Charlie suffers in comparison to the equally popular Charlotte’s Web before Cameron broadens her essay to consider recent young adult fiction.
- McLuhan, Youth, and Literature, Part III (February 1973)
More on young adult fiction and a concluding thrust at Mr. McLuhan.
- In Protest (February 1973)
Editorial by Paul Heins describes an anonymous response to Part I of Cameron’s article.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: A Reply (February 1973)
Roald Dahl responds to Ms. Cameron.
- Letters to the editor (February 1973)
- At Critical Cross-Purposes (April 1973)
Editorial by Paul Heins considers the roots of the controversy.
- A Reply to Roald Dahl by Eleanor Cameron (April 1973)
- Letters to the editor (April 1973)
- Letters to the editor (June 1973)
- Letters to the editor (August 1973)
- Letters to the editor (October 1973)