Listen up Roald Dahl fans! James and the Giant Peach is one of our favorite fruit-filled adventures, but there’s a lot to learn about this peach of a story. Here are some juicy facts that you might not know about this fantastically funny tale…
1. The book was almost called ‘James and the Giant Cherry’
The inspiration for the giant peach came from a cherry tree in the orchard at Roald Dahl’s Buckinghamshire countryside home. He began to wonder what would happen if one of the cherries kept growing and growing – and growing! He considered several different giant fruits, but eventually settled on the idea of a giant peach.
2. Roald Dahl had never written for children before
James and the Giant Peach was Roald Dahl’s first conscious attempt to write for children, having spent several years previously writing short stories for adults. He began writing it in 1959.
3. There have been a few different covers over the years
The original first edition of the book was released in 1961. It featured illustrations by Nancy Ekholm Burkert, and was her first illustration work. Quentin Blake re-illustrated the story in 1995!
4. Roald Dahl liked the idea of creepy crawlies as characters
Roald Dahl decided to write about insects as he felt all the interesting animals had already been written about by Beatrix Potter or A.A. Milne. He reportedly told his daughter, Ophelia, “There seemed to be jolly little that had not been written about, except maybe little things like earthworms and centipedes and spiders.”
5. James has been immortalised in LEGO bricks
In 2017, to celebrate Roald Dahl Day, LEGO created giant statues of Roald Dahl’s characters. James took 160 hours to build and was displayed at Cardiff Castle.
6. THE BOOK GETS CHALLENGED A LOT. . .
Dahl’s story doesn’t shy away from mature themes like death and child abuse, making it a target for book banners across the country. According to the American Library Association, it was #50 on the list of “Most Challenged Books 1990-1999.” People have also taken offense to the book’s surreal elements and supposed sexual suggestiveness. In 1986, a Wisconsin town banned the book over a scene in which Mrs. Spider licked her lips.
7. HE WORKED THROUGH TRAGEDY.
On December 5, 1960, Dahl’s infant son, Theo, was badly injured after a New York taxi collided with his stroller. To control the buildup of fluid in Theo’s head, which took the brunt of the impact, doctors installed a shunt. The tube frequently became blocked, requiring one desperate visit to the emergency room after another for Dahl and his wife, the actress Patricia Neal. Rather than retiring in grief, Dahl became something of a medical expert and, with the help of doctors and a toymaker, developed an improved shunt called the Dahl-Wade-Till valve. The device went on to be installed in more than 3000 children—but Theo wasn’t one of them. By that point, Dahl’s son had recovered sufficiently. Dahl also found time to work on James, finishing the book in early 1961.