James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant Peach (film) Quentin Blake Nancy Ekholm Burkert

James and the Giant Peach
First edition (US)
AuthorRoald Dahl
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreChildren's novel, Fantasy
PublisherAlfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Publication date
Media typeHardcover
[Fic] 21
LC ClassPZ8.D137 James 2002

James and the Giant Peach is a popular children's novel written in 1961 by British author Roald Dahl. The original first edition published by Alfred Knopf featured illustrations by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. There have been reillustrated versions of it over the years, done by Michael Simeon for the first British edition, Emma Chichester Clark, Lane Smith and Quentin Blake. It was adapted into a film of the same name in 1996, and a musical in 2010.

The plot centres on a young English orphan boy who enters a gigantic, magical peach, and has a wild and surreal cross-world adventure with seven magically-altered garden bugs he meets. Roald Dahl was originally going to write about a giant cherry, but changed it to James and the Giant Peach because a peach is "prettier, bigger and squishier than a cherry."[1][2]

Because of the story's occasional macabre and potentially frightening content, it has become a regular target of censors.[3][4]

Dahl dedicated the book to his six year old daughter, Olivia, who died only a year after the book was published.[5]


James Henry Trotter is a boy who lives with his parents in a house by the sea happily. Unfortunately, when he is four years old, an escaped rhinoceros from the zoo eats James's parents and he ends up with his two cruel aunts, Spiker and Sponge. Instead of caring for him, they treat him badly, feed him improperly and force him to sleep on bare floorboards.

After James had been living with his aunts for three years, he meets a mysterious man who gives him green beans and says that if he would drink it his life would change for the better. While going to his home he falls and the beans spill on a peach tree. The tree, in turn, produces a single peach which soon grows to the size of a house. Spiker and Sponge build fences around it and earn money by selling tickets to tourists, giving them the chance to see the peach. James is locked in his house and sees the peach through the bars of his bedroom window.

After the tourists have gone, James is assigned to clean the rubbish and finds a tunnel in the peach. He enters it and meets Centipede, Miss Spider, Old Green Grasshopper, Earthworm, Ladybird, Glowworm, and Silkworm who become his friends.

The next day, Centipede cuts the stem of the peach, causing it to roll down and fatally squash James's aunts. It reaches the sea where sharks surround it. James uses Miss Spider and Silkworm to make threads, while Earthworm is used as bait and draws 501 seagulls[6] near the peach, whereupon the threads are tied on their necks. The peach is lifted off the water and Centipede falls down but is later rescued by James. The peach goes into the clouds and meet cloud men demons. Then Centipede mocks them which makes them angry, and they start throwing hailstones at the peach. James manages to pull the peach down on the lower part of the sky and realizes that they have reached New York City. People think it was a bomb and warn the others to evacuate.

Police personnel and firemen arrive and see the peach, which causes some to faint. Then James comes and tells the whole story and becomes friends with many children in New York, and they eat the peach and James and his friends get their own jobs.


Film adaptations

A television adaptation of the novel appeared on BBC One on December 28, 1976. Paul Stone directed a script by Trever Preston. The cast included Simon Bell playing James, Bernard Cribbins playing Centipede, and Anna Quayle playing Aunt Spiker.[7]

Though Roald Dahl declined numerous offers during his life to have a film version of James and the Giant Peach produced, his widow, Felicity Dahl, approved an offer to have a film adaptation produced in conjunction with Disney in the mid-1990s.[8] It was directed by Henry Selick and produced by Denise Di Novi and Tim Burton, both of whom previously produced The Nightmare Before Christmas. The movie consists of live action and stop-motion to reduce production finances.[9] It was narrated by Pete Postlethwaite (who also played the wizard). The film was released on 12 April 1996.[10] Though it was a box office flop, it received positive reviews and eventually became a cult classic.

There are numerous changes in both the plot of the film and the plot of the book, though the film was generally well received. Felicity Dahl said that, "I think Roald would have been delighted with what they did with James."[8] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a positive review, praising the animated part, but calling the live-action segments "crude."[11] The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score (by Randy Newman). It won Best Animated Feature Film at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

In August 2016, Sam Mendes was revealed to be in negotiations with Disney to direct another live action adaptation of the novel,[12] with Nick Hornby in talks for the script.[13] In May 2017, however, Mendes was no longer attached to the project due to his entering talks with Disney about directing a live-action film adaptation of Pinocchio.[14]

Musical adaptation

The book was made into a musical with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and book by Timothy Allen McDonald. The musical had its premiere at Goodspeed Musicals on October 21, 2010 and is currently produced in regional and youth theatre.[15][16]



  1. ^ Roald Dahl Fact Sheet: Puffin play ground Puffin Books
  2. ^ Clarie Heald (11 June 2005) "Chocolate doors thrown open to Dahl". BBC News
  3. ^ The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000. American Library Association.
  4. ^ "Why is China banning Winnie the Pooh and other foreign picture books?". Newsweek.
  5. ^ Kashmira Gander. "'In 12 Hours She Was Dead': Read Roald Dahl's Heartbreaking Letter to Anti-Vaxxers After His Daughter Died From Measles". Newsweek. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  6. ^ "How many seagulls would really be needed to carry Dahl's Giant Peach?" The Telegraph. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  7. ^ "James and the Giant Peach - BBC One London - 28 December 1976". BBC Genome.
  8. ^ a b Roberts, Chloe; Darren Horne. "Roald Dahl: From Page to Screen". close-upfilm.com. Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  9. ^ Evans, Noah Wolfgram. "Layers: A Look at Henry Selick". Retrieved 12 December 2008.
  10. ^ "James And The Giant Peach". bcdb.com, 23 March 2011
  11. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (19 April 1996). "PITS A WONDERFUL LIFE". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
  12. ^ "Sam Mendes in Talks to Direct Disney's Live-Action 'James and the Giant Peach'". Variety. 25 August 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  13. ^ "Sam Mendes, Nick Hornby in talks for live-action 'James and the Giant Peach'". Entertainment Weekly.
  14. ^ "Sam Mendes in Early Talks to Direct 'Pinocchio' Live-Action Movie". Variety. 22 May 2017. Retrieved 22 May 2017. Mendes will no longer direct the “James and the Giant Peach” remake for Disney, which he was attached to less than a year ago.
  15. ^ Jones, Kenneth (21 October 2010). "James and the Giant Peach, the Musical, Blossoms with the Help of Pilobolus, Oct. 21". Playbill. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  16. ^ Gioia, Michael (22 April 2015). "Watch Skylar Astin and Megan Hilty Record Pasek and Paul's James and the Giant Peach! (Video)". Playbill. Retrieved 12 September 2016.