Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: James And The Giant Peach – Roald Dahl


James And The Giant Peach – Roald Dahl


When James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree, strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it's as big as a house. When James discovers a secret entranceway into the fruit and crawls inside, he meets wonderful new friends—the Old-Green-Grasshopper, the dainty Ladybug, and the Centipede of the multiple boots. After years of feeling like an outsider in his aunts' house, James finally found a place where he belongs. With a snip of the stem, the peach household starts rolling away—and the adventure begins!


Review: First published in 1961, James and the Giant Peach is a children’s classic. It’s a delightful fantasy story about a giant flying peach filled with undocumented immigrants who are fleeing terrible lives in their home country. After a dangerous flight across the ocean, the magic peach illegally enters US airspace. The United States Air Force does not immediately shoot the peach down in a fiery blaze of sticky, cobbler-scented glory. The flying fruit lands safely in New York. Instead of detaining the immigrants and questioning them for hours about their religion, the US government throws them a parade. Everyone gets a slice of peach and lives happily ever after.

Or, maybe I read the book wrong.

You guys know this story, right? A British boy named James is forced to live with his abusive aunts after his parents are eaten by a rhino. James is so desperate to escape the abuse that he eagerly accepts a bag of magical crocodile tongues from a stranger. Unfortunately, he spills the tongues on the roots of a peach tree. The tree grows a house-sized peach and several human-sized insects. James and the bugs use the peach to make their escape from the horrible aunts.

“We are now about to visit the most marvelous places and see the most wonderful things!” – James and the Giant Peach


I’ve read a few of Roald Dahl’s children’s books, and I’ve come to the conclusion that he was a slightly twisted person. In this book, James’s loving family is killed by a rhino on page 1. A few chapters later, the evil aunts are squashed dead by the peach. The other characters celebrate their deaths by writing songs. It’s delightfully messed up.

When I was a kid, I adored the creepy 1990s movie version of this book. I don’t remember ever reading the book, but I think I would have liked it. The story is fast-paced and wildly imaginative. There’s some humor and some danger. It’s short enough that it can be read in a few hours, which is great for kids who don’t have long attention spans.

The movie will give you nightmares.


“There are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven't started wondering about yet.” – James and the Giant Peach


I have a few gripes. The first one is personal: giant bugs. Giant bugs go against everything I stand for in this world. To be fair, the author does try to “humanize” the bugs by explaining that bugs aren’t scary, but I don’t buy it. Bugs are scary. Nothing you can say will convince me otherwise.

My other criticism is more sensible. The characters solve the problems that arise in the plot too easily. It becomes a pattern. An issue happens; the bugs panic; James comes up with a solution; the problem is solved perfectly and with minimal stress. The cloud people at the end of the story do disrupt the pattern a bit, but I still would have liked to see something work out less-than-perfectly.

James and the Giant Peach isn’t my favorite Roald Dahl book. That award goes to Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it’s entertaining enough. It would be great for kids who like adventure and aren’t bothered by anthropomorphic bugs.






19 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this book as a kid! I have a pure horror of bugs especially spiders and centipedes so the idea of mutant ones was not ideal! But the book itself was good! Loved the sharks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Loved the story and the sharks. The bugs . . . not so much.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  2. It's funny, I think I read this as a kid (or maybe it was one of those books the teacher read in 3rd grade?) but I remember none of it, except a warm memory of liking it. Interesting that I didn't even remember what it's about. It does sound delightfully weird. Bugs though... maybe I'll leave it in me memory.

    BTW that first paragraph- awesome lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I love how dark the story is. Dark kids’ books are the best.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  3. I don't remember reading this book (I actually don't remember being read to much as a child), but obviously this was published during JFK presidency and not DT's.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, if it was written nowadays, the ending might have been very different. ;)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  4. A read a book a few days ago where the main character was swimming in a pond naked when her friend standing by the side of pond was shot. Panicked, the protagonist ran to the nearest house to call 911 in her birthday suit. And the guys who answered the door just happened to have clothes exactly her size.

    Talk about convenient.

    I've not read James and the Giant Peach, but I've seen the 90s movie version you refer to. In the movie, the aunts don't die in the beginning of the story. Now I'm wondering what other significant differences exist between the movie version and the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That does sound convenient. I haven’t seen the movie since I was a kid, so I don’t remember it very well. I just remember liking it and being creeped out by the bugs.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  5. I wish you had liked it a bit more. But it's been a long time since I read it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I liked it. I just like Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory more. Roald Dahl is generally awesome.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  6. I actually never read any of Dahl's books but because of movies know the stories. Glad you enjoyed this despite giant bugs!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A lot of people seem to be familiar with the movies. I guess they’re classics. :)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  7. My kids loved this movie when they were little but I've never read the book. Sounds like it's even darker than the movie.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven’t seen the movie in a long time, but the book is delightfully dark. I remember the movie being pretty dark, too.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  8. I do remember the movie being cute. My daughter enjoyed it as a child. I have never read any of Roald Dahl's books but this does sound like it would be worth the read.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I read this as a child and I remember the giant bugs being scary as well. You're right, that's not okay. And I didn't think about how twisted and messed up the book can be until I read this review :D But I still love the story ahaha

    ReplyDelete
  10. (But you've gotta love the twistedness! It's one of the reasons Roald Dahl is so awesome!) XD

    ReplyDelete
  11. My first time reading James and the Giant Peach was when I was a teen and my brother was in elementary school. He's dyslexic and over the summers I would read to him. I personally hated the book for the repetitiveness of it and the weirdness of it, but he LOVED it. The next time I read the book was when my son had come home from school having seen the film in class. He loved the film and wanted me to read the book with him. I think the second time around I was able to detach myself enough from the experience to see how others could take joy in its absurdity.

    ReplyDelete

I do a happy dance every time I get a comment. (You should be grateful that you’re not around to witness this dance. It’s truly horrifying.) Leave a link to your blog so I can visit you.