James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
James's aunts call him names, beat and starve him and make his life a misery. If only his parents hadn't been eaten by an escaped rhinoceros, he wouldn't be in this mess. But one day he meets a man who gives him a bag of magic crocodile tongues and so begins the adventure of his dreams.
This was one of my favourites as a child. It's just so entirely fantastical, and has all the important parts of a children’s novel - goodies who get a happy ending, baddies who get their comeuppance, a nail biting part in the middle where we're not sure if our heroes are going to make it, lovely character history and development - and so much more!
It has a brilliant sense of escape to it, and it's really a book for anyone who has wanted to up sticks and leave for somewhere a bit more magical (this is, coincidentally, exactly how I am feeling at this point in my life, and perhaps this made me love the book more).
The imagery and wonder is exciting - Cloud-Men painting rainbows, would you believe! It's broken down into lovely little short chapters with cliff-hangers, and these along with the excellent rhythm and pace make it a perfect children's story.
After reading Going Solo, Dahl's autobiographical work which details his time in the RAF, I could understand more where he was coming from in certain passages. I particularly liked the paragraph where he described the peach as a beautiful, slow, silent flying machine not at all like noisy, clattering airplanes. This was a clear nod to his flying days, and why not describe how much more wonderful a peach would be to fly on!
This is one of Dahl's works which gives us a lot of his silly poems, which are a favourite of mine. I'd love to use some impressive poetry terms here to impress you all, but I've never been big on poetry. The rhythm is my favourite part, though, along with the nonsense words.
I also liked the way Dahl sneaked in the lesson to see things from other's point of view. Miss Spider describes how she has watched various relatives being flushed down the toilet, or beaten to death with a newspaper. Her descriptions are horrific, especially for the target audience, and we are taught to think a bit more before we act. Most people will, however, continue to massacre the poor spiders. I like to think of myself as more humane than that, but that is by the by.
Read this. It's trippy, but it's gorgeous. Read it especially if you've read it as a child, read it if you have your own children, and most importantly read it if you are looking for an escape.
9 / 72 books. 13% done!