James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Oct 10, 2017

I've always been a little wary of James and the Giant Peach. When I was still quite young, maybe six or seven, my mom read it aloud to me. She disliked it so much that she swore off Roald Dahl forever after, and I didn't read another Dahl novel during the rest of my childhood. (As a side note and in my mom's defense, she didn't ban any of my siblings and me from reading Dahl--in fact, we owned The BFG and maybe Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, too--but she certainly didn't encourage us.)

As an adult, I decided it was time to give him another try. I think I started with The Witches (loved it), then moved onto Matilda (loved it), followed by The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Danny the Champion of the World. I loved all of them. But always, I avoided James and the Giant Peach.

Finally though, I decided it was time. My love for Roald Dahl was secure, and I felt like I could handle a high level of weirdness. (Plus, we were running out of new Dahl novels to read aloud.)

I stepped cautiously into the first sentence: "Here is James Trotter when he was about four years old." It wasn't scary at all. I moved onto the next one: "Up until this time, he had had a happy life, living peacefully with his mother and father in a beautiful house beside the sea." That didn't seem bad either. In fact, I was already deeply intrigued.

With growing confidence, I finished the first chapter--all about how James' parents were tragically eaten up by an angry rhinoceros, and he was sent to live with his despicable Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker who never let him do anything except chop wood.

It was weird and bizarre and slightly morbid . . . exactly what I'd come to expect and love from Roald Dahl.

We flew through the rest of the story: James meets an old man. The old man gives James a white paper bag with little green things in it. James trips on his way home. The green things go flying. The green things wriggle into the ground. The next day, a peach is growing to ginormous proportions. James goes inside the giant peach. The peach breaks off the tree. The peach rolls down the hill and over the two horrible aunts. James is off on an adventure with a handful of giant bugs.

The giant bugs were immediately endearing to my kids (have the words "giant bugs" and "endearing" ever been used in the same sentence before?), who have a soft spot for all things creepy crawly, and even though I'm not as much of a bug lover, their personalities were all so unique (and I got to do fun voices) that I loved them, too.

I'm glad I was finally brave enough to revisit this book. I didn't dislike it. I wasn't weirded out by it. I actually loved it. So I guess the thing I took away from it is that my mom and I have different senses of humor and different tastes in books. And that's something I can totally appreciate and respect.

Do you have a favorite Roald Dahl novel? Or are you like my mom and would rather avoid him?


  1. I can't believe your mom disliked Roald Dahl so much! He was my all time favorite author for much of my childhood. Glad you're enjoying his wonderfully unique style and humor now!

  2. There's a sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's weird.

    You might also try his autobiography Boy.


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