Saturday, October 03, 2009

Reader's Diary #529- Roald Dahl: James and the Giant Peach

First off, what do you call these books, these novels for children? It's a bit too juvenile to be called "young adult fiction" and I've never liked the term "chapter book"-- how does that distinguish it from an adult novel with chapters? Is "children's novel" the correct term?

Whatever you call them, they break a lot of my normal reading practices. I rarely read a novel more than once, but not so with children's novels. Usually I don't care to read a novel once I've seen the movie, not so with children's novels.

In the case of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, I haven't read it before, but I have seen the movie. This was, however, my daughter's first exposure to the book. As with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, we thoroughly enjoyed it.

What an imagination Dahl had! Do you suppose he was being hounded by his publishers one day, and lacking a idea to present them, considered the peach he'd just eaten and went from there? Whatever, he made it work.

Of course, being Dahl, there were the usual songs that I could have done without, but plenty of people, my daughter included, seem to enjoy them so I won't complain too loudly except to say they just seem like filler to me. And in the tradition of classic fairy tales that Dahl seemed to follow, there are a few squeamish moments for parents (the abusive aunts, the taking presents from a stranger), but you talk about those, you move on, and you relish the bizarre and magical world of Dahl.

11 comments:

Nicola said...

Dahl's always been a winner at our house. I'm working on my third time with his books now. I read 'em as a kid, read 'em to kiddo #1 and now reading some to kiddo #2. I imagine when I'm 60 or so I'll probably be reading them all again to the grandkids!

raidergirl3 said...

I think of Dahl as Stephen King for little kids.

John Mutford said...

Nicola: I love having an excuse to read them, though I suspect I'd be reading them anyway.

Raidergirl: I think Dahl's a step up from King, but similar yes.

Wanda said...

My 19 y.o. daughter loved Roald Dahl! 'The Witches' was her favourite but my youngest daughter is pretty fond of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'. The fact that she gets to be an Ommpa Loompa this year in the school play might have something to do with that, she's pretty excited! Glad to know your daughter is an RD fan too!

In the case of James and the Giant Peach we've read the book and seen the movie, multiple times. :)

Classification? I'd call this one juvenile fiction. Even though it conjures images of "juvie hall", can't think of what else you'd term a book that falls between early chapter and YA.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I have not read as many Dahl books as I would have liked, although I seem to have seen a lot of movies based on his books. Which makes me a lazy Dahler, I guess.

Lisa said...

Dahl seems to enjoy throwing things into his works that make a parent go "eww" but they are so imaginative that I was always willing to overlook that. I, too, had a problem with the songs--how to "read" those?

Ashley said...

I love Roald Dahl's books, I have read them all a thousand times (especially when I was teaching) and am looking forward to reading htem to my daughters. I think Children's novel is the best term, sounds more like an actual book, not a step like chapter book.

Bookfool said...

I loved James and the Giant Peach. As to the question about classification, I think these days books that are not quite Young Adult level are termed "Middle Readers". "Chapter books," on the other hand, describe those books that signify the first step new readers take when they move away from chapter-less children's books and into their first early readers divided into chapters. It was an important distinction to my children, as I recall. They were excessively pleased when they became good enough readers to move into the reading of books with chapters.

Ladytink_534 said...

I love Dahl! I haven't read nearly as many of his books as I would like and only recently picked this one up (loved the movie a lot).

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Teddy Rose said...

I loved this book as a child. I'm glad you enjoyed it.