All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let’s get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States — and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!– Kurt Vonnegut
Banned Books Week ended Saturday and I’m a little disappointed I only managed to read one banned book, but I guess one is better than none.
Title: James and the Giant Peach
Author: Roald Dahl
Publisher/Pub. Date: Puffin/April, 2000 (originally published in 1961)
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Summary: When James Henry Trotter accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree, strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it’s as big as a house. Then James discovers a secret entranceway into the fruit, and when he crawls inside, he meets a bunch of marvelous oversized friends—Old-Green-Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, Miss Spider, and more.
After years of feeling like an outsider in the house of his despicable Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, James has finally found a place where he belongs. With a snip of the stem, the peach starts rolling away, and the exciting adventure begins!
In 3rd grade, I had two amazing teachers (I am still in contact with one of them to this day). My reading teacher introduced me to the marvelous world of Roald Dahl. The BFG remains one of my all-time favorite books and when I re-read it my senior year of high school, it was just as lovely as I remembered it being. Also, when I re-read it, so many of my classmates would see what I was reading and for a few minutes revert back to 8-year olds and squeal in delight over that wonderful book.
Despite growing up with Roald Dahl, it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I finally read James and the Giant Peach. I have always adored the movie, but for some reason, never read the book.
Roald Dahl Day (quite possibly one of the greatest holidays ever!) is September 13, James and the Giant Peach celebrates its 50th birthday this year, and has been banned. It was obvious what I would be reading for Banned Books Week.
I love hearing the (under many circumstances, downright ridiculous) reasons certain books were banned. In this case, parents took issue with the story’s ‘mystical’ elements and saw Miss Spider licking her lips as a sexual gesture. As always, profanity and references to tobacco & the like also contributed to its banning. Also, many parents complained about a line Grasshopper says: “I’d rather be fried alive and eaten by a Mexican!” Interestingly, James’s running away from his abusive aunts was seen as an act of disobedience.
I love the movie and the first time I read the book, I had hoped it wouldn’t deviate too much. The beginning, for the most part, stayed the same: James lives with his parents by the sea until one day when they are killed by an escape rhinoceros. He is sent to live with his two horrible aunts, Spiker and Sponge. One day, an odd man appears out of nowhere and hands James a bag of glowing worm-like creatures. James drops the bag, the creatures (rocks?) burrow into the ground, and soon a monstrous peach grows on what was thought to be a dead peach tree. Spiker and Sponge see this as a way to get rich and begin charging people to see the peach. One night they send James to clean up after everyone and he discovers a hole in the peach. After climbing inside, he meets his fellow companions (they were changed by the glowing rocks too) and eventually they flee the terrible hill they’ve been living on for so long.
That’s where the plot begins to change. As the peach is rolling down the hill, Spiker and Sponge are crushed underneath and die. Certain scenes (like the Cloud Men) were removed from the movie which didn’t bother me in the least. The Cloud Men was actually my least favorite part of the book.
Once they cross the Atlantic and get to New York, the book and movie more or less merge once more (with the exception of Sponge and Spiker’s arrival, obviously) and we get a happy ending.
James and the Giant Peach is an extremely quick read and is a wonderful way to revisit your childhood. However, I greatly prefer the movie.