Wednesday, May 8, 2013

James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
160 pages

Roald Dahl's children's classic opens with the main character James Henry Trotter, at age 4, living a blissfully happy life until his parents were tragically eaten by an escaped rhinoceros from a nearby zoo. James is sent to live with his horribly cruel and grotesque Aunts Spiker and Sponge who verbally and physical abuse him in addition to depriving him of normal child activities such as playing outside. James's fortune changes when he is seven years old and meets a strange man who offers him a bag of magic glowing crocodile tongues. The man tells James that if he eats them all his life will change forever.

James takes the bag of magic crocodile tongues and hurries through the garden to eat them in secret, but drop the bag and loses its contents in a few seconds. James is distraught and has to return to his miserable life at his aunt's house. The next day while James is getting yelled at by his aunts, they all notice a peach growing on the tree in the garden. The three of them stare in astonishment as they witness the peach swiftly grow to the size of a house. Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge decide to make a profit off of the peach by displaying it to town members and visitors for an expensive fee. When James is sent to clean up after the spectators he happens across a tunnel at the side of the peach and crawls inside, thus beginning an adventure that changes his life.

James reaches the stone of the peach and goes inside. He is frightened to see abnormally large insects that can speak. They are introduced as the Old Green Grasshopper, Lady Bug, Centipede, Glowworm, Earthworm, Miss Spider, and Silkworm. After James helps untie all 21 pairs of Centipede's boots, they go to sleep inside of the peach. The next morning James awakes to find out that Centipede is chewing the stem of the peach loose to free them from the hill and embark on a journey. When the peach is snapped loose Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge are crushed to death in its path. The gigantic peach rolls through the town, possibly passing Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, and past farms and villages until it rolls off a cliff and lands in a body of water. James and the insects are excited to float on sea safely until the peach is swarmed by dozens of hungry sharks attempting to eat them. While the insects are panicking and feeling doomed, James comes up with the brilliant plan to hook the seagulls overhead to the stem of the peach using silk and web strings made by Silkworm and Miss Spider, and using Earthworm as bait to hook the seagulls. After James hooks over 500 seagulls, the peach lifts out of the water and the seagulls carry the peach high in the sky.

After they thank James and celebrate, they realize that the sharks haven't damaged the peach at all, as the narrator explains the peach was too big for the sharks to bite. The Centipede falls off the peach while singing a song in celebration, but James jumps after him and rescues Centipede while tied to the peach with a silk string. Afterwards, The Old Green Grasshopper plays a song using his legs and the insects along with James journey through the day and night feeling optimistic. When the peach passes clouds in the moonlight the travelers are amazed to see creatures called Cloud Men making hailstones and snowballs for the world below. They are hard at work on the weather when Centipede taunts them and causes the Cloud Men to launch an attack with the hailstones. James and the insects lie low until the seagulls pass the Cloud Men. They believe they are safe when they encounter another group of Cloud Men constructing a rainbow. The peach crashes into the rainbow operation and messes up the Cloud Men's work. The Cloud Men are angered and throw trash at the peach and pour rainbow paint on Centipede. Then the Cloud Men pour a deluge of rain on the peach that nearly drowns James and the insects, though they manage to survive.

After the seagulls fly away from the Cloud Men for good, the peach flies over New York City. The peach is visible to New Yorkers and an alarm is sounded for the large "bomb" about to drop on the city. A plane passes by the peach and slices all the strings attached to the seagulls loose, and the giant peach free falls to the ground. The peach stops when it gets stuck on the pole of the Empire State Building. Hundreds of policemen and firefighters rush to the top of the building and discover the alarming sight of the Centipede and the other large bugs, until James appears and tells them that they are harmless. James and his friends instantly become famous and are treated to a parade around the city. James invites the children following the peach at the parade to eat the peach and the peach is eaten clean to the stone. James ends up living in the stone that is situated in Central Park by the novel's end. James and his magical insect friends each end up having successful careers and lives after their exciting journey across the Atlantic, as James himself reveals at the end of the story.

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