The story of James and the Giant Peach was first introduced to me by the 1996 film adaptation of the same name. I was only 5 when this film was released, but I feel as though I may have been a bit older when I first watched it. I became a huge fan of everything Tim Burton beginning at a pretty young age, but I only recently discovered that the film was produced by him, which may explain why I loved it so much.
I always knew that the story of James and the Giant Peach was based on a children’s novel, but I never had the opportunity to read it until recently. The book was just as magical as the film and I really do wish I could have read it at a younger age because I think it would have quickly become one of my favourites.
The writing style is very whimsical and fun and surprisingly dark at some moments. You know when you re-watch a television show or a film that you loved as a kid, but only now understand some of the darker humour that went over your head when you were younger? This book definitely throws in a bit of under the radar humour for the adults that are reading this story to their children. I think that approach is fantastic because when these children grow up and start reading this story to their children, they will start to realize things that they may have missed.
James and the Giant Peach revolves around the main character, James Henry Trotter who has become an orphan after his parents passed away, in a rather dark and strange situation, who now has to live with his two awful aunts. James is a smart young boy who becomes very lonely and is in desperate need of some sort of interaction. Through some magical occurrences, James befriends a fun cast of insect characters as they go on an exciting journey together. My favourite of the insects by far is Centipede. He is a self-proclaimed pest who doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut, but you can guarantee that once he opens it you will be entertained by his sass and comedy. We also meet Miss Spider, who has some sad stories to tell that will make you reconsider killing spiders, and who is also very helpful with getting the gang out of sticky situations. Old-Green-Grasshopper is the voice of reason within the group and also happens to be a great musician. Earthworm is a very gloomy character who is only happy when there is nothing to be happy about. I found that Ladybug wasn’t given much to say even though she was right there with everyone during the duration of the story. There are a few more characters (Silkworm and Glowworm) that I wish had a bigger role in the story so that we could learn more about them. Altogether, these insects and James make up a group of characters unlike any you have ever read about before.
James and the Giant Peach is a fantastic children’s story that everyone, young or old, should definitely be reading. There isn’t much out there that can compare to the magical mind of Roald Dahl and his creative stories and characters. James and the Giant Peach will definitely become my stepping stone towards the world of Roald Dahl and I cannot wait to read more!