James and the Giant Peach

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
James and the Giant Peach Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Lonely boy's magical adventure still satisfies.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 17 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Like Roald Dahl's other great children's novels, James and the Giant Peach is really meant to entertain and uplift, not necessarily to educate. Dahl did throw in a few fascinating facts about insects and animals (ladybugs eat garden pests, and so are considered farmer's helpers, for example), but young readers might not necessarily separate the true from the fantastic, such as the "cloudmen" who send rain and hail down to earth.

Positive Messages

Dahl was a master at creating these fantastical Dickensian situations, in which a poor, deserving but unloved child's life is magically transformed. The positive message here is primarily that, as the old man tells James, "marvelous things" can happen. It's also worth noting the way James overcomes his fear of the insects once he sees past their shocking size and appearance. You can't judge a book by its cover, in other words.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are some mean grownups in this book, but James is an upstanding little boy: good, kind, clever, and resourceful. James and his insect pals also show how teamwork -- with everyone contributing his or her special talent -- can save the day.

Violence & Scariness

The demise of James' parents happens before the action in the novel begins, and that is probably the only event in the novel that could be upsetting to children. James' cruel aunts, Sponge and Spiker, beat him often, but that action is not shown. Later, the peach itself leaves some destruction in its wake, and sharks and the weather-making cloudmen threaten harm, but this is all within the realm of fantasy.


On two occasions, Centipede calls other characters "asses."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that James and the Giant Peach creates a marvelous, fantastical world for young independent readers. Dahl's original cast of characters, magical and suspenseful situations, and his liberal addition of comic poetry also make this a terrific read-aloud book. However, Dahl's books are not always warm-and-fuzzy: James is orphaned on Page One, and he is treated cruelly by his selfish aunts. And, incidentally, his only true friends are giant insects. This is a charming, fast-paced fantasy for children who are ready to separate fact from fiction. If your kids enjoy the novel, also check out Tim Burton and Henry Selick's wonderful animated film adaptation, which came out in 1996.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3, 5, and 7-year-old Written byMamaLlama3 October 13, 2011

Not the best examples for kids

I started reading this to my boys, ages 6 and 8, and I was disappointed right off the bat. The poor little boy lives with his abusive aunts - my kids were both... Continue reading
Parent of a 5 and 8-year-old Written byM382 December 28, 2011

A classic.

I remember reading this at age 8. It has always been one of my favorite children's books. It is a charming and fanciful story about one boy’s brave journ... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byEpicNerd January 14, 2014

Lovable Children's Book :)

I absolutely LOVE this book despite my age. I actually read it when I was 13 just 'cause and ended up adoring it. The originality and randomness of Roald D... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old March 10, 2013

A Great Book,A Classic!

I Checked James and the Giant Peach Out From My School's Library.When I Started Reading It,I Loved It!It's About A Boy Named James and He Lives with 2... Continue reading

What's the story?

When young James Henry Trotter is orphaned, he must leave his pleasant home by the seaside and go to live with two cruel aunts, Sponge and Spiker, who treat him like a slave. One day, an old man appears, offering James a bag of crystals that he says will make marvelous things happen. The old man's magic causes a dead peach tree to grow a piece of fruit the size of a house, and that is the start of James' fantastic adventure.

Is it any good?

JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH is a delightful children's novel full of adventure and singular characters. As in many of the great Roald Dahl's works, the central character is a poor, deprived child, and seeing James Henry Trotter rise from his lowly state to become a leader with true friends is immensely satisfying. Dahl also weaves funny singsong poetry into his fantastical tale, which helps make the book wonderful to read aloud.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how at first the insects inside the peach frighten James, but he quickly learns to see past their unusual looks and makes friends. Also, each of the insects has a particular talent. What is special about each one? Which one is your favorite?

  • James' aunts are very cruel to him. Kids' books often have villains who are mean to the main character. Why do you think that is? What does it do to the story?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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