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I first read "James and the Giant Peach" when I was 9 years old (I am 14 now), and reread it so many times that I actually know the story by heart! This book is funny, exciting and makes me use my imagination.
The story: After his parents are eaten by a rhinoceros (I would've made a tiger eat them instead, since in real life rhinos don't eat meat!), young James Henry Trotter has to go live with his two mean aunts named Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, who treat him very very badly. Poor James has to live with his aunts for three whole years until one day a mysterious man gives him a bag of magic things. (He tells him they are crocodile tongues.) James is so excited that he starts running back to the house, but when he is underneath an old peach tree in the garden he accidentally slips and spills all the tiny little things and they dig themselves into the roots of the tree. Suddenly a peach appears on the very tip of the tree and then starts to grow and grow and doesn't stop until it is as big as a house! The aunts are so excited about this that instead of immediately eating pieces off the peach they start charging people to see the peach. After everyone has left they force James to pick up all the litter that the people left behind. Poor James is left all alone in the dark! For no particular reason, James walks up to the peach and starts touching it. He notices that there is a rather large hole in the peach. He crawls in, and the hole becomes a tunnel. He keeps on crawling until he reaches the center of the peach. He meets seven oversized insects who turn out to have swallowed some of the tiny little things that James had spilled. When the stem snips off (with some help, of course), the peach rolls off and the eight travellers embark on the adventure of a lifetime!Read more ›
Dahl's name on a book, to me, is synonymous with a wild ride. James and the Giant Peach is quite possibly his craziest book (that I've read) so far.
Dahl's penchant for abused children facing down a cruel world sets the scene, with James Henry Trotter (whose parents were gobbled up by a rhinoceros) living a lonely, miserable life in the cruel care of his aunts Spiker and Sponge (who are, of course, truly horrible people, even for Dahl's worlds). Then one day a strange man appears and gives James magical green things, telling him to brew them into a tea and drink them and marvelous things will happen.
Parents will be close to screaming at this point, both because of the blatant abuse of the lead character and the danger of eating things strangers (and this man is indeed VERY strange) offer. Consider it an opportunity to have a talk or two about the serious subjects with your kids.
James accidentally trips and loses the green magical things, which burrow into the ground and instead work their magic on the few occupants of the horrible aunts' pitiful garden. The strange man was right, though, and the peach tree somehow surviving in such a horrible place, grows a gigantic peach that serves as boat, meal and almost a secondary character in James' voyage to freedom.
James and the Giant Peach is quite "out there". In fact between giant bugs, sheer strangeness and outlandish extremism (and cloud people) James and the Giant Peach could fit into the bizarro genre, if it was commonly aimed at children readers.
There is some issue with language ("ass" is used several times) and the level of abuse James suffers that makes this book not for all families.Read more ›
This is a great book for children from 4 to 10. I am way past that age but I still enjoyed it. Dahl's style of writing is excellent and the story is quite simple and interesting. All in all, an excellent book and I would recommend anyone with children to buy it.
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I am a tutor for a young child. I recently read this book to a child who doesn't like to read, and he could not put this book down. From a child's perspective, he found the book easy to read. He said the words jumped off the page giving him images in his mind. He loved the adventure and even put himself in the book as James. He pretended to be on the adventure and enjoyed every page. This book can jump start any child's interest to read. This book installs creativity and a fun love to read in a child.
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(I am reviewing the 1988 Windrush large print version of the original 1961 book by Dahl. Illustrations are by Michel Simeon.) This fanciful book's old-fashioned style and content almost feels as if it were written at the turn of the 19th Century, and the James' initial misery recalls Dickens. The writing's rough edges make it seem more like a personal story, rather than the product of some anonymous conglomerate. Unfortunately, the beginning of the book (where James magically escapes from his aunts) seems contrived, the aunts are unbelievably cruel, and the writing is somehow flat. However, the book picks up after James and his newfound insect friends escape via a magic peach. The bantering and arguing insect personalities are reminiscent of those in "Winnie the Pooh" and "The Wizard of Oz." (The feuding Centipede and Worm are a bit like emotionally labile Tigger and pessimistic Eeyore; the "LadyBird" plays a role similar to the Scarecrow.) The insects' squabbling and fear is balanced by James' good-hearted and well-reasoned actions that save them from sharks, the angry "Cloud People" (who throw hail, water, and rainbow-making paint at them), and the fearful citizens of New York City. Dahl has lots of word play ("Oh, just look at the vermicious gruesome face!"), and songs done in a kind of "Alice of Wonderland" meets Broadway style: "I've eaten many strange and scrumptious dishes in my time, Like jellied gnats and dandyprats and earwigs cooked in slime, And mice with rice-they're really nice/When roasted in their prime. (But don't forget to sprinkle them with just a pinch of grime.)" As you can see, the humor (and some of Michel Simeon's illustrations for the 1988 edition) is sometimes fun-gothic, and the demise of the aunts is not like that pictured in the movie based on the book (They get run over by the peach.) Overall, however, and despite its slow beginning, the book is stylish and lots of fun.
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Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was born in Llandaff, South Wales, and went to Repton School in England. His parents were Norwegian, so holidays were spent in Norway. As he explains in Boy, he turned down the idea of university in favor of a job that would take him to"a wonderful faraway place. In 1933 he joined the Shell Company, which sent him to Mombasa in East Africa. When World War II began in 1939 he became a fighter pilot and in 1942 was made assistant air attaché in Washington, where he started to write short stories. His first major success as a writer for children was in 1964. Thereafter his children's books brought him increasing popularity, and when he died children mourned the world over, particularly in Britain where he had lived for many years.The BFG is dedicated to the memory of Roald Dahls eldest daughter, Olivia, who died from measles when she was seven - the same age at which his sister had died (fron appendicitis) over forty years before. Quentin Blake, the first Children's Laureate of the United Kingdom, has illustrated most of Roald Dahl's children's books.