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Video: James’ giant peach was almost a cherry

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    >>> the giant peach." hard too believe the beloved children's book celebrates the 50th anniversary this year. this book sold more than 12 million copies, translated to 24 motion languages. he creates a giant peach out of a bag of magic crystals beginning a journey of his dreams. and our book club kids are richard, michael , and chamoya. and live from summer camp , zachary . hey, zac.

    >> hi.

    >> you're the first guest from a summer camp . we appreciate that. all right, thanks so much. we're going to get to you in a second. first of all, it must have been something growing up. and the process of his writing. what was that like?

    >> he was -- he was very diligent about his routine. he would write from 10:00 in the morning until noon and have lunch and then back on the horse around 7:00. and then he would go back from about 3:00 to 5:00 every single day. but he used to always say that the trick was to leave while you're going well. because if you leave -- if you get -- you know in your writing that you're doing well and you think i'll finish that segment then i'll leave, then you have nothing to come back to. coming back to an empty page is terrifying. if you know where you're going next, you can't wait to get back there.

    >> as a writer, do you concur with that?

    >> i try to. it's hard to stop, though, when you get to that.

    >> first up is 12-year-old brigitte, how are we doing?

    >> good, how are you?

    >> what's your question?

    >> i was wondering, what's your favorite book that your father wrote?

    >> without question, it's the vsg. every night we would get a story. he would tell us a story. he would catch us on his ideas. he would come to the end of the story and we'd say thank you very much, good night. heed think of a better word here. but when he went to the bfg lived in a tree in the orchard near our house. after that segment of that particular story, he would then come to our bedroom window, say good night, leave a crack in the window, put the ladder up, stick a bamboo in, we'd think it was the bsg and a huge bamboo in our window and our dreams would get blown into -- and one year he fell off of the ladder. he had whiskey, i think.

    >> that put an end to that one.

    >> oh the father stories we have.

    >> 10-year-old michael vasquez, what's your question?

    >> why did your father choose a giant peach instead of a giant apple.

    >> it started off the whole idea is it started off with it being a cherry. the black birds used to eat the cherries every year before they got ripe. my dad used to try everything. he put scare crows up. he tries everything. the black birds ate them and he thought what would happen if the black birds didn't get them. and then what would happen if they kept growing and growing. that was the seed of the idea. and then he thought, the cherry is not interesting and what's interesting and the peach is squishy and furry and a great big seed in the middle that you can live in.

    >> great question, michael . and moving on. chamiya richards. what's your question?

    >> hi, my question is what was it like growing up with two famous parents? your father being a famous author and your mother a famous actor?

    >> we live in a countryside in england. my mother was working in america. she wasn't considered famous in england at that time. and my father hasn't really, i'd say, "made it" at that time. i would say the only thing that affected our childhood instead of going to the parties to bring a barbie as a present or something like that, we would have to bring a book. dad, do we have to bring a book? and he'd say, this is a marvelous present. and somewhere we found a first edition-signed book somewhere.

    >> shamoya being so literate, remind folks who they were.

    >> patricia neil.

    >> terrific actress.

    >> yes, terrific actress.

    >> and we have zachary munier joining us from camp in glen s tr sty, uy new york. what's your question, zachary ?

    >> i think they were mean, selfish, horrible people that only thought about themselves and hated children. and the fact that they didn't choose to have children and james literally was dumped on them, i think they were angry about that. and they were also probably -- as bad as you can make them. my dad had very good talent. you know, somebody had a wart, they had hair growing out, if they had crooked teeth , they had really crooked teeth . so i hope that answers your question. but i think the bottom line is because they really didn't like children.

    >> i think those are some great questions and great answers. thank you so much. brigitte, michael , shamoya, thank you very much. james and the giant peach gets five stars.

    >> yea.

    >> fantastic stuff. if you're between the ages of 5 and 12, the chance to be the next chance kid.

    >>> the next book is -- the name of this book is "secret" by bash. very mysterious.

TODAY books
updated 5/20/2011 9:51:11 AM ET 2011-05-20T13:51:11

A children’s classic, Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach” has been capturing the imaginations of young readers for 50 years. Though rife with fanciful creatures and surreal circumstances, Dahl’s story still resonates with themes that every child can relate to. Here's an excerpt.

Until he was four years old, James Henry Trotter had had a happy life. He lived peacefully with his mother and father in a beautiful house beside the sea. There were always plenty of other children for him to play with, and there was the sandy beach for him to run about on, and the ocean to paddle in. It was the perfect life for a small boy.

Then, one day, James’s mother and father went to London to do some shopping, and there a terrible thing happened. Both of them suddenly got eaten up (in full daylight, mind you, and on a crowded street) by an enormous angry rhinoceros which had escaped from the London Zoo.

Now this, as you can well imagine, was a rather nasty experience for two such gentle parents. But in the long run it was far nastier for James than it was for them. Their troubles were all over in a jiffy. They were dead and gone in thirty-five seconds flat. Poor James, on the other hand, was still very much alive, and all at once he found himself alone and frightened in a vast unfriendly world. The lovely house by the seaside had to be sold immediately, and the little boy, carrying nothing but a small suitcase containing a pair of pajamas and a toothbrush, was sent away to live with his two aunts.

Their names were Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, and I am sorry to say that they were both really horrible people. They were selfish and lazy and cruel, and right from the beginning they started beating poor James for almost no reason at all. They never called him by his real name, but always referred to him as “you disgusting little beast” or “you filthy nuisance” or “you miserable creature,” and they certainly never gave him any toys to play with or any picture books to look at. His room was as bare as a prison cell.

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They lived — Aunt Sponge, Aunt Spiker, and now James as well — in a queer ramshackle house on the top of a high hill in the south of England. The hill was so high that from almost anywhere in the garden James could look down and see for miles and miles across a marvelous landscape of woods and fields; and on a very clear day, if he looked in the right direction, he could see a tiny gray dot far away on the horizon, which was the house that he used to live in with his beloved mother and father. And just beyond that, he could see the ocean itself — a long thin streak of blackish-blue, like a line of ink, beneath the rim of the sky.

But James was never allowed to go down off the top of that hill. Neither Aunt Sponge nor Aunt Spiker could ever be bothered to take him out herself, not even for a small walk or a picnic, and he certainly wasn’t permitted to go alone. “The nasty little beast will only get into mischief if he goes out of the garden,” Aunt Spiker had said. And terrible punishments were promised him, such as being locked up in the cellar with the rats for a week, if he even so much as dared to climb over the fence.

The garden, which covered the whole of the top of the hill, was large and desolate, and the only tree in the entire place (apart from a clump of dirty old laurel bushes at the far end) was an ancient peach tree that never gave any peaches. There was no swing, no seesaw, no sand pit, and no other children were ever invited to come up the hill to play with poor James. There wasn’t so much as a dog or a cat around to keep him company. And as time went on, he became sadder and sadder, and more and more lonely, and he used to spend hours every day standing at the bottom of the garden, gazing wistfully at the lovely but forbidden world of woods and fields and ocean that was spread out below him like a magic carpet.

Excerpt from "James and the Giant Peach" by Roald Dahl. Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group. Copyright (c) Roald Dahl, 1961. Reprinted by permission

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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