After a period away (due to alien abduction—yes, another one) we’re back with a real peach of a book review. From that children’s novelist master Roald Dahl.
Published in 1961, the first edition had drawings from Nancy Ekholm Burkert. Since then, many other editions have followed—some like picture books.
Plus, there are a bunch of film adaptations. Peachy? Why yes, indeed!
James and the Giant Peach
As with The Twits, this one was a hit with us as kids. Although our favourite Dahl one was definitely the former there. But this is also grand.
It tells the life of James Henry Trotter. Oh, and his odious aunts. He’s an English orphan (a theme in Dahl’s The BFG).
Bizarrely, the story begins with him happily living by the sea with his parents. Who are then savagely murdered by a rhinoceros.
So, off he goes to live with Spiker and Sponge—his horrible aunts. They treat him very poorly and James is left rather sad.
One day, he bumps into a random weirdo. And this man hands over to him some magic beans. James returns home and accidentally spills the magic beans onto a peach tree.
The next day, one of the peaches has ballooned to the size of a bloody house.
His aunts turn the thing into a tourist attraction, while James cleans up the rubbish left by visitors. However, one day he comes across a tunnel that leads into the peach. And inside he finds:
- Miss Spider.
- Old Green Grasshopper.
- Earthworm (no relation to Earthworm Jim).
Everyone hits it off with James and he’s catapulted into a worldwide, surreal adventure. That’s not before Centipede cuts the peach’s stem, which savagely murders James’ aunts (there’s quite a lot of psychotic violence in the book).
They’re all then able to attract 501 seagulls, who’re attached to the peach. And they go off on a jolly adventure.
Arriving in New York, residents panic as they think it’s a nuclear warhead.
With the police arriving en masse and panicking, James is able to restore order by emerging from the peach to explain his story.
And, possibly in an abandoned sequel, it’s explained that Centipede then went to jail for many years.
Yes, so this is one very surreal idea. But wonderfully imaginative, for sure, with the enormous peach something of a children’s book icon.
What can we add? It’s great! A high concept idea that’s deceptively simplistic, but created with the usual Dahl charm offensive.
A classic of children’s literature. And one we can heartily recommend.
1996 Film Adaptation
The most famous adaptation is this 1996 musical fantasy romp. Its director was Henry Selick.
The cast included Miriam Margolyes, Joanna Lumley (aka Patsy Stone), Pete Postlethwaite, Simon Callow, Jane Leeves, and Richard Dreyfuss.
Quite the star studded cast there, eh? The first 20 minutes are normal film fair, then it enters into stop-motion animation mode. Nice.
Unfortunately, off its $38 million it wasn’t much of a hit. Although Roald Dahl’s wife was very happy with the end result.
It’s a good fun film, we vaguely remember watching it in 1996. One for your kids these days—if you have any! If not, watch it yourself!