We've been on a Roald Dahl kick recently, and I hadn't read James and the Giant Peach since I was a kid, so I thought it would be a great one. What a treat!
The Story: James Henry Trotter lived with his unpleasant aunts, Spiker and Sponge, and was miserable. They were cruel and he never got to play with other children. He was forced to spend all of his time in his miserable house and his miserable yard, with his miserable aunts. Then, one day, a mysterious stranger gave him a bag of magical pellets, which would give him wonderful things, but only if he was the first thing they touched. It would have been wonderful... except he tripped and the pellets sunk into the soil by the roots of the old defunct peach tree in the garden. He thought all was lost, until the amazing thing that happened to the peach tree started to effect him. An enormous peach grew on the tree, and in the end, it freed him from his horrid aunts, and brought him on a wonderful and exciting adventure, with new friends.
The Good: James is a wonderful boy. Though he hated his aunts, he was not mean about it, and he came from a sad place (his parents had died), but he always looks for the positive things. The bug friends in the peach are funny and love James immediately. James always comes up with clever solutions to problems. The adventure is exciting without being too scary. There is a good amount of humor throughout. We caught a reference to the Vermicious Knids from Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator! In the end, James gets everything he could want, even though he dropped the magic pellets. It all works out in the end. And isn't that nice?
The Bad: James' Aunts get run over by the peach, and squashed, and there is nary a word said about it. Squish, and the story moved on. That might be a bit much for some kids. Evalina didn't seem bothered by it. There are some scary parts when the peach is attacked by sharks and ominous Cloud Men, which also might be scary for some kids. The word "ass" is used in several places. That's all the bad I can think of.
The Verdict: Just wonderful! I can't wait to watch the recent movie with Evalina. Does anyone know how it compares? Amazon recommends this book for ages 9-12, but my 6 1/2 year old loved it. This is a classic that you shouldn't miss. Roald Dahl is delightful.