Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

I recently finished reading the delightful children's book, James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, to my two older boys. One is four and the other is five. This is the first chapter book that we have attempted to read together and although there were some big words used (ex: martyr, exhorting and scornfully to name a few), we just plowed right through it and they both said they really enjoyed the story.

Many children's stories start with a tragic beginning from which the main character can emerge triumphant. This story is no different. We are introduced to poor James Henry Trotter in the first chapter and are quickly given his sad story of how he was a happy boy, loved by his parents, who became an orphan and went to live with two very mean aunts who treated him extremely bad.

As the story goes on we are given full understanding to just how awful these two women are to James. But then something very unusual and quite unexpected happens that changes James' life. One day, James is in the yard at his aunts' home and is approached by a weird old man who gives James a bag of tiny green things "that looked like stones or crystals, each one about the size of a grain of rice."  The old man tells James, "There's more power and magic in those things in there than in all the rest of the world put together."  Then he gives James instructions on how to mix the things with water to drink them, and then leaves. 

James is in such a hurry to get back in the house, to drink this magic that will change his life, that he trips and the bag falls and busts open, spilling the green magic things onto the ground where they sink right in and disappear!  James is upset but his aunts find him and yell at him to work.  Then the aunts notice a peach  hanging in the peach tree that has never born fruit.  While they all stand watching it, the peach begins to grow and grow.  It grows so big that it becomes the size of a small house.  This is the start of many fantastical things that James will see and experience.  The peach takes James on an amazing adventure where he meets many creatures and proves his bravery over and over. 

James Dahl uses some poetic verse in the dialogue throughout the book and it's purely whimsical and entertaining.  I enjoyed re-reading this tale as much as I enjoyed watching my children become involved with the story.  I would recommend this book to those with children and those with a child-like heart.

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