We recently finished our latest read-aloud, James and the Giant Peach. This was in anticipation of attending the play at our local children's theater and we all declared the book a great success. Our girls had seen the movie of James, but we hadn't read the book yet, so itneeded to be rectified for that reason alone!
James is the story of an orphan who's parents were tragically killed by a rampaging rhinocerous. James was sent to live with his aunts Sponge and Spiker who were less than caring in their treatment of him. One day while out in their garden, James comes upon a strange man who offers him some magic "seeds" made from crocodile tongue. These special seeds, of course, have magical properties, but they have one use so it's IMPERATIVE that James is extremely careful with them. As expected, he drops them in the garden where they are swallowed into the ground, and coincidentally, near a sad peach tree in the yard that doesn't produce fruit.
The next morning, the aunts and James awake and to their amazement there is a giant (and I mean GIANT) peach on the tree. Large enough that the aunts are able to sell tickets for viewing the peach and have quite the productive first day raking in money to curious onlookers. Unfortunately, this prosperity last one day as the aunts reach a tragic end, at the hand of the peach, no less, and James is off on an exciting adventure inside the peach with a motley crew of supersized insects.
Confusing? You'll just have to read the book. : )
Roald Dahl manages to pull all this craziness into a likeable story and tie it up somewhat neatly at the end. I came across the following quote and thought it so appropriately describes James, as well as Dahl's writing style, that I couldn't help but share it:
... there was just something about Roald Dahl books that made everything seem like a dream. The vivid colors, the underlying darkness that sometimes hinted at despair. The ending seemed just a bit too happy to fit the rest of the book, but I wasn't one to complain about a happy ending.I actually have very limited experience reading Dahl's works; I think we have only read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox besides this book. His quirky style as well as his poems scattered throughout his stories are worth the read though I wouldn't want a steady diet of his works. Eventually I need something with a little more meat and a little less nonsense. : )
- The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma
I'll end with one of my favorite conversations in the book between James and the Ladybug, my favorite of the fantastical insects that James travels with:
"I think you're wonderful," James told her. "Can I ask you one special question?"I'll be linking up with Amy's Read Aloud Thursday at the end of the month; it's a great place to find recommendations for books to read with your kids. I'd also recommend the Read Aloud Revivial podcast, one of my favorite finds this year and full of fantastic books to discover as well.
"Well, is it really true that I can tell how old a Ladybug is by counting her spots?"
"Oh no, that's just a children's story," the Ladybug said. We never change our spots. Some of us, of course, are born with more spots than others, but we never change them. The number of spots that a Ladybug has is simply a way of showing which branch of the family she belongs to. I, for example, as you can see for yourself, am a Nine-Spotted Ladybug. I am very lucky. It is a fine thing to be."
"It is indeed," said James, gazing at the beautiful scarlet shell with the nine black spots on it.
"On the other hand," the Ladybug went on, "some of my less fortunate relatives have no more than two spots atogether on their shells! Can you imagine that? They are called Two-Spotted Ladybugs, and very common and ill-mannered they are, I regret to say. And then, of course, you have the Five-Spotted Ladybugs as well. They are much nicer than the Two-Spotted ones, although I myself find them a trifle too saucy for my taste."
"But they are all of them loved?" said James.
"Yes," the Ladybug answered quietly. "They are all of them loved."
"It seems that almost everyone around here is loved!" said James. "How nice this is!"