Great Illustrated Books

James and the Giant Peach

By Roald Dahl, Illustrated by Lane Smith

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1996
Pages : 144
Suggested Ages: 7 and Up
ISBN: 9780679880905

After his dear parents are eaten by an enormous and angry rhinoceros, escaped from the London Zoo, James Henry Trotter spends his next four years doing the bidding of the most odious and awful of relatives, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. His life seems hopeless until the day he encounters a strange old guy who gives him a sack of glowing green magical crystals made from crocodile tongues. James mixes the crystals with water and ten of his own hairs, as instructed, but trips and spills it on the ground under a gnarled peach tree. The crystals wriggle into the soil. Gone? Not exactly. The world's most gigantic peach soon grows on that tree. James, upon discovering a hole in the fruit, tunnels his way to the center where he meets and is soon befriended by an array of overgrown talking (and even singing) insects: Centipede, Mrs. Ladybird, Miss Spider, Old-Green-Grasshopper, the Glow-worm, and Earthworm. Off they roll in their peach, heading for the ocean.

While several illustrators have had a crack at this crackling fantasy—including Lane Smith (to mesh with the Disney movie of the book, still available as a DVD) and Quentin Blake, I've always loved the original art, dreamy and fantastical pen and ink and watercolors by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. Your kids will be happy with whatever version you find, losing themselves in a story of mean grownups, jovial insects, and a prodigious peach that ends up in the Big Apple, New York City. There's also a splendid recorded book version, narrated by English actor, Jeremy Irons (HarperChildrensAudio, 2007).

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Banks, Lynne Reid. Harry the Poisonous Centipede: A Story to Make You Squirm. Morrow, 1997. ISBN-13: 978-0007213092

Dahl, Roald. The BFG. Farrar, 1982. ISBN-13: 978-0670824397

Dahl, Roald. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Knopf, 1964. ISBN-13: 978-0142403884

Dahl, Roald. Danny, the Champion of the World. Knopf, 1975. ISBN-13: 978-0142410332

Dahl, Roald. The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Knopf, 1970. ISBN-13: 978-0142410110

Dahl, Roald. Matilda. Viking, 1988. ISBN-13: 978-0670824397

Dahl, Roald. The Witches. Farrar, 1983. ISBN-13: 978-0142410110

Donaldson, Julia. The Giants and the Joneses. Henry Holt, 2005. ISBN-13: 978-1405207607

Edwards, Julie. The Last of the Really Great Great Whangdoodles. HarperCollins, 1974. ISBN-13: 978-0064403146

Ibbotson, Eva. The Secret of Platform 13. Dutton, 1998. ISBN-13: 978-0141302867

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic, 1998. ISBN-13: 978-0439362139

Selden, George. The Cricket in Times Square. Farrar, 1960. ISBN-13: 978-0312380038

Snicket, Lemony. The Bad Beginning. HarperCollins, 2000. ISBN-13: 978-0064407663

Wallace, Barbara Brooks. Peppermints in the Parlor. Atheneum, 1980. ISBN-13: 978-0689874178

Critics have said

"We'll just come right out and say it: James and the Giant Peach is one of the finest children's books ever written."

"It is the craziest of fantasies wrapped tightly in a chapter book perfect for a first grade read-aloud or for the young, independent reader."
Jacki Vawter, Children

"Each character has a unique voice, aptly suiting each personality, and Irons tells the story with humor and energy. Fans of Dahl will not be disappointed in this briskly paced tale that is a delight from beginning to end."
Teresa Bateman, School Library Journal