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James and the Giant Peach



Lonely boy's magical adventure still satisfies.

What parents need to know

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

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."

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Roald Dahl
Illustrator:Quentin Blake
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Puffin Books
Publication date:January 1, 1961
Number of pages:146
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

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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 bothered that someone could be so mean to a child and I couldn't really explain that, because of course there is no explanation for abuse. Then he meets the mysterious little man who offers him a "magic" bag of that will make his life so much better, and then he makes James promise not to tell his aunts about it. Seriously? These are all things we teach our kids NOT to do....don't talk to strangers, don't EVER take things from strangers, and don't keep secrets from your parents. I suppose the story must have improved after that but I wasn't interested in finding out. I don't think this is appropriate for kids, especially these days.
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 journey, as well as a motivational tale about the boy James’ escape from an abusive situation. It is a literary classic. I have just ordered it on Amazon for my own 8-year-old boy. I read the prior review and feel compelled to respond. As a parent, your job description is to TEACH - NOT to overly shelter. R-rated and some PG-movies are off-limits; understood; but this book is entirely appropriate reading material for age 7 and above. The parts of this book which bother you are - to me - wonderful openers for discussion. Part of my job as a parent is IMO to explain the world we all live in so that my future 40-year-olds are well-equipped with information. CPS exists in every city, after all. Explanations for Spiker and Sponge’s abuse might include that they have been abused themselves as children, or that they were never taught to be grateful for what they have, and thereby have grown overly selfish and unable to care for anyone but themselves. You might explain that such people (the latter) at their core tend to be unhappy and unfulfilled; as adults we have all encountered someone similar. (And also that such people (the former) can, if loved well by those in their lives, change course and become loving persons themselves.)
Adult Written bystarl March 25, 2012

eh :)

i fink it is a good book at very high standers thankq xx
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models