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.