Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Monday, September 10, 2012

Plot Summary:
James Henry Trotter is an unfortunate boy. One day, he had a family and a lovely home until a Rhinoceros ate his parents. What's even worse is that he is now living with his Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker who are two of the most hideous, cruel, and funny looking women in all of England. Constantly beaten, and broken, James endures his aunts malicious behavior until an old man appears out of nowhere with a bag of tiny magical crocodile tongues. According to the gentlemen, if he boils and drinks these tongues with ten hairs plucked from his own head, he will be the happiest person alive. Overcome with excitement, James searches for a hiding a place until he trips on the roots of the old, lifeless peach tree and loses the tiny tongues. Saddened by these turn of events, the tree does something miraculous: it sprouts a peach that won't stop growing. Amazed, and bewildered, James' terrible aunts decide to make money off of this unfortunate incident, separating James from the magic peach. However, later that night, instead of picking up the trash left by visitors, James jumps the fence that guards the peach to find a hidden doorway. Not knowing what to do, James climbs inside the peach to find a group of giant insects having tea and sitting by the fire. Overcome with shock, James finally realizes that the crocodile tongues not only changed to the tree, but the insects that lived in the soil. Rather than than enduring his aunts' deplorable behavior, James and his new friends go on an adventure that will take them to place they never imagined.

Critical Evaluation:
In this short, yet imaginative, is a story about a little boy's bad luck. Not only were his parents taken from him, he was put in the care of two despicable adults. Like most of Dahl's stories, we have another tragic tale of innocent children growing up in the hands, and homes, of irresponsible adults. I think what cracks me up the most is the candidness in Dahl's writing that conveys to young readers just how bad James' life is with his aunts without traumatizing them. As much as we want to deny it, there are children who are just like James who live in dysfunctional homes where they know what its like to suffer. However, Dahl's characters, despite their treatment, never lose hope that things will be all right in the end, which, in turn, gives those readers hope as well. One prevalent theme that this story focuses on is taking pride in who we are. For example, when Grasshopper, Centipede, Spider, and Earthworm start talking about their role in nature, it lets readers know that they also have specific traits that contribute to our world. For James, who has always been seen as worthless, starts gaining confidence in himself as he becomes captain of this crew of oddballs. Without James, there would be no one to think of brilliant ideas as to how to escape a pod of man-eating sharks or turning a giant peach into a flying machine. In fact, with the help of his new friends, James has done many thing he never would have imagined doing! With every challenge, James and company are able to survive with trust, teamwork, and a little creativity. The ending is absolutely awesome because it not an every day sight to see a giant peach shish kabob-ed on the Empire State Building. Not to mention, New York City devouring the peach, leaving the pit for James' new home is just as brilliant. This book is just plain fun and I can't wait to talk to tweens about this story. 

Information about the Author:
According to the book jacket of James and the Giant Peach:
Roald Dahl, born in 1916 in wales, spent his childhood in England and later worked in Africa. When World War II broke out, he joined the Royal Air Force and became a fighter pilot. After a war injury, he moved to Washington D.C., and there he began to write. His first short story was published by Saturday Evening Post, and so began his long career.

Roald Dahl became, quite simply, one of the best-loved children's book authors of all time. Although he passed away in 1990, his popularity and that of his many books -- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Danny the Champion of the World, to name just a few--continues to grow.

Genre:
Tween Fiction

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 4 & up
 

Books Similar to James and the Giant Peach:

Awards & Recognition:

Reviews from Amazon.com:

"The most original fantasy that has been published in a long time...[it] may well become a classic."
San Francisco Chronicle

"This is a stunning book, to be cherished for its story, a superb fantasy."
Chicago Sunday Tribune

"Here is a broad fantasy with all the gruesome imagery of old-fashioned fairy tales and a good measure of their breathtaking delight."
Kirkus 

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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