James and the Giant What?

My son has been showing more interest in longer story books. At three months shy of four, I wasn’t sure if he had the attention span for a chapter book, but I felt it worth a trip to the library.

I have fond bedtime memories of “James and the Giant Peach”, although my Mother must have omitted some of Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker’s dialogue.  I certainly have no recollection of threatened brutal beatings, wishes for a broken neck or a possible night alone in a dark well.  Nor do I recall James being referred to as an “ass” by Mr. Old-Green-Grasshopper.

So, following her lead, the other evening we dove into our “G” version of the juicy tale, while his little sister sat on the floor, dismantling a box of Superhero band-aids.

Speeding through it, my son soaked up the story like a sponge, his imagination making up for sparse illustrations.  He became so hooked that at a live theatre showing of “Super Why” (last Tuesday’s special Mommy-Son date),  he requested I read a few chapters during intermission. When the flashing lights and thunderous music returned with the vigor of a rock concert , it’s quite possible my son threw a small tantrum over stowing the book before finding out just what happened to the green crystals in the white paper bag after James’ unfortunate stumble over a tree root.

Later that evening, I marveled at his retention, making a mental note to begin his Harvard college savings fund.  Every couple of chapters, I checked for comprehension by asking questions.

“Where are James’ parents?”

“They got eaten by a giant rhinoceros!”

“Who are Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker?”

“His aunts”

“Are they nice?”


“What did Miss Spider make everyone?”

“She spun them beds to sleep in”

He even foreshadowed the ghastly squashing of the Aunts by the giant rolling fruit, which most certainly shows early signs of sociopathy an advanced cognitive ability  for problem solving.

Hmmm. Perhaps a double major at both MIT and Harvard, I thought proudly before proceeding on to chapter 17.

Using all of my top-notch conservatory drama training, I had both kids on the edge of the bed, staring wide-eyed as James and his buggy friends were violently jostled around their dwelling as it crashed through town, off a cliff and into the sea.

“Mommy, stop! Wait. Who is jostled?”

“James and the insects”

“Why?  Why are they jostled?”

“Because they are inside the peach.”

“Who is inside the peach?”

“James and the insects”

“Why are they inside a peach?”

…..oh, dear.


11 responses to “James and the Giant What?

  1. (1) Ha!
    (2) Roald Dahl was kind of intense. I devoured everything he wrote when I was growing up, but thinking back about some of those books…hmm.
    (3) J. loves Super Why too! When you saw it live, did some dude sing the “Hip Hip Hooray” ending theme in super-emotive 80s metal power ballad style like on the show? I hope so!
    (4) We went to a b-day party today for a preschool friend at your old local park, right off Balboa & Burbank. The last time I was at that particular park was the day you guys left! – when you & I & M. & the littles all went for a walk there and I helped boost Z. up the same climbing stairs that J. now barrels across. So we were thinking about you guys all day & how time has passed too, too quickly.
    (5) Always love your writing Emily, will promise to check in here more often!

  2. Buffie Arhbal

    As always, completely enjoyable! I am 42 years old today and I still dopn’t understand that movie!

  3. Buffie Arhbal

    PS, didn’t read the book

  4. I live for the day any one of my precious great neices and/or nephews comes to Boston for college! Keep reading…and singing! Wicked is coming back to Boston. I’m certain that’s your voice in the radio ad singing “Pop-yooo-ler”. I so love bragging to my patients when it comes over the airwaves…that’s my Glinda! Lotsa Love, Auntie Kath

  5. Ha! Thanks for the laugh! Fantastically written, I was also on the edge of my seat 🙂

  6. I do love Roald Dahl books and they make for great read-alouds (when you omit some of the language depending on your audience and the book). I love that it made perfect sense for the giant peach to squash the Aunts but at the same time is confusing that James would be inside the peach with the insects. Just wait until he can read with you during bedtime read-alouds.

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