books, Maine

Reading aloud Roald Dahl

I recently became a “cabin mom” for one of the cabins at the boys’ summer camp here, which basically just means that I read to the cabin at night, before they go to sleep. They are eleven and twelve-year-olds, and so I chose James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl.

I forget how, when children’s literature is really good, it is not just for children. Reading at night in the dark cabin by a flashlight, the boys lying in their beds, I am equally captivated by James and his adventures. One passage, in particular, stuck out to me–

“He looked around him, wondering what on earth it was going to be. The garden lay soft and silver in the moonlight. The grass was wet with dew and a million dewdrops were sparkling and twinkling like diamonds around his feet. And now suddenly, the whole place, the whole garden, seemed to be alive with magic.

Almost without knowing what he was doing, as though drawn by some powerful magnet, James Henry Trotter started walking slowly toward the giant peach. He climbed over the fence that surrounded it, and stood directly beneath it, staring up at its great bulging sides. He put out a hand and touched it gentle with the tip of one finger. It felt soft and warm and slightly furry, like the skin of a baby mouse. He moved a step closer and rubbed his cheek lightly against the soft skin. And then suddenly, while he was doing this, he happened to notice that right beside him and below him, close to the ground, there was a hole in the side of the peach.” (24)

The story itself is crazy–a giant peach?! Life-sized insects!? But how astonishingly creative, and how real, and how AWESOME it also is. I am not sure I ever read the book as a kid (likely it was read to me and I simply don’t remember) but reading it aloud has been a real joy. And it reminds me, too, of how boundless my imagination used to be–and I think still has the capability of being, if I let it.