After his parents are eaten by an angry rhinoceros you wouldn’t think things could get much worse for James Henry Trotter, but this horrible happening is just the first of his woes. Up until he is four, James lives with his doting parents on the beach, but after their deaths is sent to reside with his nasty relatives, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. Always called horrible names and forced to do all the chores, James leads a miserable life for three years until something ‘magical’ happens.
A strange little man with bristly black whiskers and dressed a suit of green gives James a little bag. Inside, a mass of crystal-like stones the size and shape of rice sparkle mysteriously. These ‘crocodile tongues’ will allow marvelous things to happen! James is so excited he trips and the bag bursts open, the green stones sinking into the soil at the base of the fruitless peach tree. James wants to cry, but the next morning an amazing thing has happened. The barren peach tree has produced a gigantic peach that continues growing in front of his aunts’ eyes until it reaches the size of a small house. Ever greedy, the pair decides to sell tickets so the community can view the amazing fruit.
That night James visits the peach and finds a tunnel inside of it. He crawls inside and meets the most amazing creatures. They are all insects. There is an old-green grasshopper, a huge spider, a giant ladybug, a sleepy silkworm, a centipede, and an earthworm. All have swallowed the magic stones, growing to a large size and now have found a home inside the sticky peach. Anything is better than the two aunts’ garden! They greet James quite cordially and Miss Spider spins them all beds. The next morning the peach begins to roll much to the horror of Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker who are flattened by the giant fruit.
The peach rolls out of the garden and heads for the sea where it lands with an enormous splash. The excited creatures are adrift and set for some sort of adventure, but the earthworm moans that they will certainly starve. James quickly points out that all they have to do is eat some of the peach—there’s plenty to last for weeks. Happy, they freely float for a long while until Centipede notices hungry sharks swimming in the water. James comes up with the brilliant idea that silkworm can spin rope and the voyagers can lasso the seagulls to take them away. The plan works and they drift away from the snapping sharks. All goes well until cloudmen let loose snow and hail and then attack them. The seagulls manage to pull the peach away and they escape the nasty cloud people.
They gently float towards New York City, where their arrival sends the city into pandemonium. The mayor of New York, in great fright, calls upon the president to send his army in to rescue the city from the monster. At just that moment Centipede bites through the strings until they drop right upon the spire of the Empire State Building. The citizens cry out that what they see is a UFO or a dragon or a Whangdoodle! The insects and James lean over the side and James urges the people to not be frightened. He introduces the creatures and the police help them down. In a reversal of fortune, everyone thinks the passengers on the peach are heroes! James shouts out that the peach won’t last and that it would be a tasty treat. All the children of New York line up to eat it and soon there is only a giant brown pit remaining.
Everyone on the peach becomes rich and famous. Centipede becomes Vice-President of a boot company, Silkworm and Miss Spider set up a factory to make ropes, Glow-worm becomes the light inside the torch of the Statue of Liberty, and James lives in the peach pit inside Central Park and welcomes all sorts of visitors. The children beg him to tell of his adventures and he decides to write it all down in a book—and James and the Giant Peach is the result!
Any who reads RoaldDahl becomes immediately aware of two important things. First, the author’s abundant imagination literally bursts the seams of traditional children’s literature, creating a fantastic adventure land for children. The second is that all children populating his books are victims of insensitive and often cruel adults. This reflects the horrible experiences Dahl suffered at the hands of his teachers while at boarding school. Born in Wales in 1916, Dahl was a RAF fighter pilot during WWII but was wounded and thus decided to become a writer. It was a fortunate thing since his books are still popular with children worldwide and several of them, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG, and James and the Giant Peach have been made into successful motion pictures.