I’ve scheduled this review to publish as I am snuggling our newborn and trying to get a bit of sleep.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl is a children’s classic. I have read it before but I think not since I was a kid myself. It was a delight to read aloud with my kids. In fact, it became a bit of a family affair. My husband read several chapters aloud as well. This is one of his favorites from his childhood so it was fun to hear him read it too.
- I was surprised how different the book is from the movie. They actually create several new scenes in the movie that aren’t even in the book. And the cloud men are left out entirely. These changes led to some fun conversations about movie adaptations of books with our oldest.
According to Goodreads, “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!
Roald Dahl’s first and most widely celebrated book for young people continues to thrill readers around the world.”
Roald Dahl is the perfect author for young kids. There are so many things I love about his books for younger audiences. Here are a few of my favorite things about his stories:
- Short chapters and great pictures. This makes them so easy to read a chapter (or three!) at bedtime and my kids always want to see the pictures. There is just something magical about Roald Dahl’s stories paired with Quentin Blake’s illustrations.
- Fast paced action that is simple enough for young kids to follow and get excited about. From the first page, there is always something happening in a Roald Dahl story. In this one, the action never stops from the rhinoceros attack in chapter one to the arrival in New York City. My kids were always asking for one more chapter–he is also an expert at cliff hangers at the end of chapters!
- Great protagonists that are young kids themselves. James is a delight to read about. He is kind, sincere, a good friend, comes up with great ideas, and works hard to save his friends. I loved how he becomes more confident through the story and that he gets his happily ever after.
- Such clever supporting characters! Roald Dahl has a way of creating memorable and unexpected characters. We don’t really love bugs at our house, but we loved these magical characters. Old Green Grasshopper and his music, silly centipede with his songs and getting into trouble, wise Miss Spider, kind Mrs. Ladybug, and hilarious Earthworm. I love the way they take care of James and also help him become his best self.
- Unique and engaging settings. I love that Roald Dahl creates unique and often magical places that are connected or even inside of our world. James flies on the peach from England to New York helping young readers imagine similar adventures for themselves. The peach is such a fun setting! We all wanted to take a taste the delicious fruit along with the other children during the parade in New York. And my kids thought it was so cool that they flew over the ocean and James lives in the pit in Central Park at the end.
I was surprised by how intense this book gets at times. Roald Dahl doesn’t shy away from surprisingly scary moments. This book begins with James’ parents being eaten by a rhino for goodness sake! And the intensity doesn’t story there. Many moments in the flight to NYC include more intense action than I remember. It’s been years since I read this, and I think I mostly remember the plot details of the movie. But those cloud men are a bit scary–even their pictures! My kids thought they were really interesting though and are still talking about how cloud men make rainbows and hail storms.
Overall, a delightful read aloud! I am always impressed by Roald Dahl’s storytelling and find his stories perfect for young kids. We had a lot of fun reading this one and watching the movie adaptation (which is suddenly almost 25 years old!) together. Our next read aloud is The BFG–we love Roald Dahl!
What is your favorite Roald Dahl novel?
Do you like movie adaptations of your favorite books? Why or why not?