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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.

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 Jam 2002

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] The actors Jeremy Irons, Andrew Sachs, and Julian Rhind-Tutt provide the English language audiobook recordings.[5]



James Henry Trotter is a 4-year-old boy who lives with his parents in a house by the sea.

Unfortunately, while visiting London, James' parents are killed by a rhinoceros that has escaped from the zoo.

Their house is sold, and the orphaned James is forced to live with his two abusive aunts, Spiker and Sponge. They treat him badly, feed him improperly and force him to sleep on bare floorboards.

One day, after an argument with his aunts, he meets a mysterious man who gives him green beans and says that if he would drink it his life would be full of adventures. While going to his home he falls and the beans spill on a peach tree which produces a single peach and it grows to the size of a house. Spiker and Sponge build fences around it and earns money by selling tickets tourists and they get to see the peach. But James is locked in his house and sees the peach through the bars of the window.

James is assigned to clean the trash and finds a tunnel in the peach and goes through it and meets Centipede, Miss Spider, Old Green Grasshopper, Earthworm, Ladybug, Glowworm and Silkworm who become his friends.

The next day, Centipede cuts the stem of the peach which rolls down and kills the aunts and reaches the sea. Sharks surround it. James uses Miss Spider and Silkworm to make threads. Then he uses Earthworm as bait and draws 500 seagulls near the peach and ties the threads on their necks. Then the peach starts flying and Centipede falls down but is later rescued by James. The peach goes into the clouds and meet cloudmen 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.

Then officers and firemen arrive and see the peach and some 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.


  • James Henry Trotter – The seven-year-old protagonist.
  • The Old Man – A friendly yet mysterious man, who initiates James' adventure.
  • Aunt Spiker – A thin, tall, cruel and evil woman; Sponge's sister.
  • Aunt Sponge – A fat, treacherous, greedy and evil woman; Spiker's sister.
  • The Centipede – A male centipede, depicted as a boisterous rascal and proud of his 'hundred legs', even though he only has 42.
  • The Earthworm – A male earthworm who often quarrels with the Centipede.
  • The Old Green Grasshopper – A male grasshopper, who is the eldest of the animals.
  • The Ladybird – A kind, motherly female ladybird.
  • Miss Spider – A good-natured female spider who takes care of James.
  • The Glowworm – A female glowworm, which is used as a lighting system for the Peach.
  • The Silkworm – A female Silkworm, who assists Miss Spider in the production of thread, both before and after the adventure.

References in the book to other Roald Dahl worksEdit

James and the Giant Peach possibly references Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the beginning and end of the novel (although its copyright date is three years earlier). When the peach rolls off the tree, it rolls through a "famous chocolate factory": a reference to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Towards the end of the book, people in New York City identify the protagonists, incorrectly, as Whangdoodles, Snozzwangers, Hornswogglers, or Vermicious Knids. All of those animals (except the last) are mentioned by Willy Wonka as predators of the Oompa-Loompas; and Vermicious Knids appear in the sequel book, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, when they try to link up with the Space Hotel U.S.A. It also references "the BFG" in the end of the novel: on the last page, James writes a recount of his adventure (the illustration shows him smiling with a book in his hands). This is also how the BFG ended. In both cases, the recounted stories are purported to be the books themselves.

Film adaptationsEdit

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.[6]

Though Roald Dahl declined numerous offers during his lifetime to have a film version of James and the Giant Peach produced, his widow, Liccy Dahl, approved an offer to have a film adaptation produced in conjunction with Disney in the mid-1990s.[7] 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.[8] It was narrated by Pete Postlethwaite (who also played the wizard). The film was released on 12 April 1996.[9] 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. Liccy Dahl said that, "I think Roald would have been delighted with what they did with James."[7] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a positive review, praising the animated part, but calling the live-action segments "crude."[10] 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,[11] with Nick Hornby in talks for the script.[12] In May 2017, however, Mendes was no longer attached to the project due to him entering talks with Disney about directing a live-action film adaptation of Pinocchio.[13]

Musical adaptationEdit

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.[14][15]


  • 2011 – ISBN 0-14-310634-1 (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition paperback, 50th anniversary, illustrated by Jordan Crane and Nancy Ekholm Burkert, introduction by Aimee Bender)
  • 2003 – ISBN 0-06-054272-1 (audio CD read by Jeremy Irons)
  • 1996 – ISBN 0679880909 (paperback, illustrated by Lane Smith)
  • 1995 – ISBN 0-14-037156-7 (paperback, illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • 1994 – ISBN 1-55734-441-8 (paperback)
  • 1990 – ISBN 0-14-034269-9 (paperback, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark)
  • 1980 – ISBN 0-553-15113-4 (Bantam Skylark paperback)
  • 1961 – ISBN 0-394-81282-4 (hardcover)
  • 1961 – ISBN 978-0-394-91282-0 (library binding, illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert)


  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. ^ "James and the Giant Peach Audiobook". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 26 June 2015
  6. ^ "James and the Giant Peach - BBC One London - 28 December 1976". BBC Genome.
  7. ^ a b Roberts, Chloe; Darren Horne. "Roald Dahl: From Page to Screen". Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 9 December 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. ^ Evans, Noah Wolfgram. "Layers: A Look at Henry Selick". Retrieved 12 December 2008.
  9. ^ "James And The Giant Peach"., 23 March 2011
  10. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (19 April 1996). "PITS A WONDERFUL LIFE". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
  11. ^ "Sam Mendes in Talks to Direct Disney's Live-Action 'James and the Giant Peach'". Variety. 25 August 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  12. ^ "Sam Mendes, Nick Hornby in talks for live-action 'James and the Giant Peach'". Entertainment Weekly.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.