This book was in the “Banned Books” display at my library, so I picked it up on my way to the check-out counter. The last time I read James and the Giant Peach, I think I may have been in the 4th grade, so this was really like reading it for the first time.
As an adult, I have to say the descriptions of the child abuse inflicted on James by his aunts was really disturbing, so I was shocked to find out that’s not why this book had been banned. Why was it, you ask? It was banned in Wisconsin in the 1980s for the ‘suggestive’ way the Spider licks her lips in one scene, and because the Centipede says the word ‘ass’ twice. The book was later banned in Florida because of the insects smoking and talking about whiskey. Apparently, all these things are way worse than James being starved and used as slave labor.
Don’t get me wrong, Dahl’s work has creepy, dark undertones, but there’s also a deep playfulness to the writing and the characters. The insects spend most of the book arguing with each other in a kind of cute, slightly dysfunctional family way, and they always look to James to give direction and take charge. For a character that’s been beaten down by his aunts for three years, watching James flourish is part of the fun of this adventure.
This book was delightfully wacky, and while I had some trouble suspending my disbelief for most of it, it’s clearly written for the elastic brains and intense imagination of children, and it delivers on adventure, playfulness, and fun.
Bingo Square: Funky