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James and the Giant Peach

Last updated Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Date of Publication: 1996
ISBN: 0679880909
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Aug. 2008

Synopsis: From Amazon.com:

When poor James Henry Trotter loses his parents in a horrible rhinoceros accident, he is forced to live with his two wicked aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. After three years he becomes "the saddest and loneliest boy you could find." Then one day, a wizened old man in a dark-green suit gives James a bag of magic crystals that promise to reverse his misery forever. When James accidentally spills the crystals on his aunts' withered peach tree, he sets the adventure in motion. From the old tree a single peach grows, and grows, and grows some more, until finally James climbs inside the giant fruit and rolls away from his despicable aunts to a whole new life. James befriends an assortment of hilarious characters, including Grasshopper, Earthworm, Miss Spider, and Centipede--each with his or her own song to sing. Roald Dahl's rich imagery and amusing characters ensure that parents will not tire of reading this classic aloud, which they will no doubt be called to do over and over again! With the addition of witty black and white pencil drawings by Lane Smith (of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs fame), upon which the animation for the Disney movie was based, this classic is bursting with renewed vigor.

Note to readers:
•  Roald Dahl also wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In Chapter 16, the giant peach rolls past a famous chocolate factory. In Chapter 24, the peach is floating in/above the ocean and is spotted by the Captain of the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary was a famous ship in England (where this book and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory take place) and is now permanently docked in Long Beach which the kids can visit with their parents.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever seen the movie James and the Giant Peach?
•  Did you like it?
•  Which came first, the book or the movie? (the book)
•  Looking at the cover, what do you think the book will be about?
•  Can you identiry the bugs on the peach? (look at the front and back cover--you can see Centipede, Spider, Lady Bug, Earthworm, Grasshopper, and Glow Bug)

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Why does James want to escape? Have you ever wanted to escape/get away from your home?
•  Do you believe in magic?
•  Have you heard any other stories about a magic beans/stones? (Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Jack and the Beanstalk)
•  Do you like to eat peaches?
•  How does everyone in the story help in their adventures?
•  What kind of adventure would you want to go on? Where would you want to go?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a giant peach out of construction paper or styrofoam (bring ahead option). Draw and cut out figures of James and his friends. Glue James and his friends on toothpicks and insert into the peach.
•  Make an animation flip book. Take a piece of white or construction paper and cut it into 16 small rectangles (or more if you can). Staple the pieces of paper together to form a book. On the first page, draw the peach at the top of the hill; for each of the following pages, draw the peach a little further on down the hill. Add a house halfway into the book and with each page after that, draw the peach slowly rolling over the house. When complete, flip the book quickly and the peach will roll down the hill.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!