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Book Club Kits: James and the Giant Peach

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

A little magic can take you a long way.

After James Henry Trotter's parents are tragically eaten by a rhinoceros, he goes to live with his two horrible aunts, Spiker and Sponge. Life there is no fun, until James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree and strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it's as big as a house. Inside, James meets a bunch of oversized friends—Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and more. With a snip of the stem, the peach starts rolling away, and the great adventure begins!

Discussion Questions

1.         The strange man in the clearing gives James a white bag filled with a strange powdery substance. What does he want James to do with this and why? Would you drink it if you believed marvelous things would happen?

2.         What does Aunt Sponge want to do with the peach? What does Aunt Spiker want to do with it? What would you do if you suddenly found yourself the owner of an enormous peach?

3.         How does James end up inside the Peach? Who does he meet there?

4.         The ladybug tells James, “’You are one of us now, didn’t you know that? You are one of the crew. We’re all in the same boat’” (28). What does this statement mean? Have you ever had a similar experience where you have been placed in a situation with a group of people with whom you have had to find a way to work? What was this situation and how did it feel to be part of the team?

5.         Who would you say is in charge of the group living inside the peach? Why do you think that this character is in charge? Why do the others seem to rely on him/her to make the decisions?

6.         Each of the insects seems to possess an amazing talent or some special gift that makes them truly extraordinary. What are some of these gifts? What gifts do you possess or talent do you have that makes you extraordinary?

7.         What is the second danger that the traveler’s encounter? What or who causes them to end up in this danger? Do you know anyone who is constantly getting him/herself and other into trouble? Who is it? Why do you think he/ she does it? What is the worst trouble that this person has ever gotten you into?

8.         What becomes of the peach? Would you be among the children who wanted to eat some of the peach? Dahl writes, “Really, it was a sight. To some people it looked as though the Pied Piper of Hamelin had suddenly descended upon New York. And to James, who had never dreamed that there could be so many children as this in the world, it was the most marvelous thing that had ever happened”(117). Who was the Pied Piper of Hamelin and what is he famous for? And, in your lifetime, what would you say has been the most marvelous thing that has ever happened?

9.         At the end of the book we discover that the book was written by whom? Do you think you will ever write your own biography?

discussion questions from

About the Author

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer and screenwriter of Norwegian descent, who rose to prominence in the 1940's with works for both children and adults, and became one of the world's bestselling authors.

Dahl's first published work, inspired by a meeting with C. S. Forester, was Shot Down Over Libya. Today the story is published as "A Piece of Cake". The story, about his wartime adventures, was bought by the Saturday Evening Post for $900, and propelled him into a career as a writer. Its title was inspired by a highly inaccurate and sensationalized article about the crash that blinded him, which claimed he had been shot down instead of simply having to land because of low fuel.

His first children's book was The Gremlins, about mischievous little creatures that were part of RAF folklore. The book was commissioned by Walt Disney for a film that was never made, and published in 1943. Dahl went on to create some of the best-loved children's stories of the 20th century, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and James and the Giant Peach.

He also had a successful parallel career as the writer of macabre adult short stories, usually with a dark sense of humour and a surprise ending. Many were originally written for American magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Harper's, Playboy and The New Yorker, then subsequently collected by Dahl into anthologies, gaining world-wide acclaim. Dahl wrote more than 60 short stories and they have appeared in numerous collections, some only being published in book form after his death. His stories also brought him three Edgar Awards: in 1954, for the collection Someone Like You; in 1959, for the story The Landlady; and in 1980, for the episode of Tales of the Unexpected based on "Skin".