James and the Giant Peach
I think I forgot how nasty Roald Dahl could be to his characters. Poor James is orphaned at the age of four because his parents are killed and eaten by an angry rhinoceros, which is especially tragic considering rhinos are herbivores. James is sent to live with his horrible aunts, because we need horrible abusive adults in our story. Then there is a crazy old man, who is completely off his rocker. The old man gives James a bag of magic things, and gives him instructions on how to make a potion with them. But James drops the bag, and the magic things go to the old peach tree instead, and so the old peach tree produces one magnificent, giant peach that’s bigger than a house. James discovers a tunnel in the peach one night (while being locked out of the house by his wicked aunts) and finds a group of giant insects lounging on chairs inside the stone. (It was a little startling to see one of the insects call James an ass. I guess times were different when this was written!) The song that the Centipede sings is full of violence, too. (The Centipede sings quite a lot of songs.) And not just the song! The aunts got fatally run over by the peach! I do like how the destruction is laid out here. The peach is a giant destructive force, and Dahl isn’t going to shy away from that. (Shout out to Jersey cows! We have them at my job!) The solutions that James comes up with are a little strange, especially with the seagulls, but he’s like, seven, so I suppose it’s fine. And the Cloud Men can be terrifying! I do like the reaction to the peach once it lands. It shows the adults overreacting, but in an almost realistic fashion. If something is unknown, people will come up with an explanation, no matter how ridiculous it may be. What is not as realistic is the acceptance that happens. But this is a children’s book, after all, so allowances can be made.
I don’t think I read this as a child, or maybe I did, I honestly can’t remember. And since I can’t remember, I decided to read it (again)!
Sophie is a young English orphan who spots a giant in the middle of the night, during the Witching Hour. And the giant snatches her out of her bed and takes her with him to Giant Country! Luckily for Sophie, the giant who takes her is the BFG, or Big Friendly Giant. He doesn’t eat people (or human beans) unlike his fellow giants, Fleshlumpeater, Childchewer, Bonecrucher, Manhugger, Meatdripper, Maidmasher, Gizzardgulper, Bloodbottler, and Butcher Boy. The other giants travel around the world plucking people out of their beds and eating them. People from different areas taste different, you see. No, the BFG goes out into the world to send dreams to children.
The BFG talks in an interesting manner (because he never went to school, he says), and has some interesting ideas, but he seems to understand human nature fairly well. He understands that if someone were to see him, than he would be captured and studied or put on display. And while it does take a while to get used to his manner of speaking, you eventually do.
Dahl appears to have the greatest of respect for butlers (as he should) and he spreads the idea that the monarchy is a bit removed from how the world works. When the cook runs out of eggs, for example, she tells him to just have the chickens lay more. (I’m sorry, Your Majesty, but chickens do not lay eggs on demand.) She also is not sure on the address of the leaders of other lands, which certainly is not true. Knowing proper protocol and manners of address are things I’m almost certain the Queen knows!
One thing I noticed in Dahl’s books is that the children come up with some fantastical plan to solve a problem, and it works! And I’m not sure if this happens with all of his books, but with both of these they end up being written by characters in the story. So who knows? Maybe in some alternate universe, these stories really are true!
This fulfills the CBR10 Bingo square of “Throwback Thursday”