Monday, May 23, 2011

I've eaten many strange and scrumptious dishes in my time... jellied gnats and dandyprats and earwigs cooked in slime..."

James and the Giant Peach, which turns fifty this year, is my personal favorite among Roald Dahl's books. I love the humor and the so-vivid-you-want-to-argue-with-them characters, of course. I love the scrumdiddlyumptious idea of an aircraft-sized peach, the perfect chaser to all of Charlie's chocolate. I love the poems, most of which can, somewhat aptly, be sung to the tune of the Gilligan's Island theme. (You're welcome.)

But I think what really appealed to me when I first encountered the book was that it seemed to be saying, "Why not?" Why not crawl inside the pit of a gargantuan piece of fruit and make friends with the overgrown creepy-crawlies within? Why shouldn't that same peach become a means of escape from your (hilariously) horrible aunts, and then a means of sustenance when that escape goes a bit awry? Why shouldn't a home and friends await every child?

And why shouldn't real kids get in on the fun?

"Now comes," the Centipede declared, "the burden of my speech:" Happy birthday, James Henry Trotter!