Because September had a “Banned Books Week,” as part of my “research,” I had my husband check a bunch of formerly challenged/banned children’s books out of the library.
I’d tried reading A Wrinkle in Time years ago, which I couldn’t get into (I preferred Peppermints in the Parlor, though I’m not sure that’s a relevant comparison) and The Giver (an interesting plot with not-so-interesting characters); for some reason, I had my husband return all the books except for James and the Giant Peach. It sat on my nightstand for weeks, and when I was too lazy (i.e. tired) to get up and get the other book I was reading, I opened it and was instantly captivated.
I’m the first to admit that I generally prefer children’s poetry (i.e. fun and creative) over adult poetry (which often comes across as emo and pretentious), so I was pretty sure this book would stand the test of time.
It did and was even better than I remembered.
I liked the illustrations—it helped cartoonize the creepy-crawly characters, which made them seem less gross.
Though James Henry Trotter was likeable, he wasn’t super well-developed. It was what happened to him that made him a sympathetic character, rather than how he handled what happened to him.
That said, the creepy-crawlies all had their own little personalities that set them apart, though I did find that the male creepy-crawlies had stronger and more memorable personalities than the female ones; however, two of the three female creepy-crawlies did contribute much more to “the mission” than the male creepy-crawlies, so even though they didn’t have the gab, they had the gumption.
Even though the verses were cute, I would’ve preferred them to be in dialogue form. For some reason, when I see poetry in a novel, it’s like an interruption to the story.
The only thing that was weird (and not in a good way) was the ladybug marrying the Head of the New York Fire Department. Humans and animals should never marry, and that goes for creepy-crawlies and humans, as well. Ladybug should’ve married one of the other creepy-crawlies, but then, what were her choices—an obnoxious-as-hell centipede, a blind earthworm who never shut up about his disability (even though earthworms are supposed to be blind), and a grasshopper that would’ve made her a widow any day.
Despite the bizarre coupling of the man and the ladybug, James and the Giant Peach was an incredible adventure (and perhaps a premonition of Monsanto’s crimes against food).