James and the Giant Peach was always my favourite Roald Dahl book when I was a kid. Yes, I liked it more than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Twits, and even a little more than Fantastic Mr. Fox. I must have read it at least 25 years ago for the first time. I read it over and over, a battered old Puffin copy that has long since disappeared, and been replaced, and read over and over again. And why James? It was the Peach. And Quentin Blake’s wonderful illustrations.
Special books, it seems to me, always turn up in the oddest of places. Dave and Maria were down for a visit, so we drove them out to the country to visit Carmel and go to a library sale. This was the usual leapy-grabby affair, and I wasn’t really in the mood for digging (which lead to me filling only two bags full while fastidious Dave chose only two books, an off day for both of us. Well perhaps it was three bags) We headed over to the next town to go to some op-shops and the bakery (who, for a wonder, ruined the jam tarts that day) Three stops for book shopping, however, is not enough for Craig (always a fight to the very end!). We had to stop at some more on the way back.
So at the end of the usual exhausting sort of day we stopped at a poky little op-shop. The book shelves had all sorts of things stacked in front of them. There was a girl on the floor sifting through an enormous pile of books, so I had to edge in sideways to get down to the very last shelves which were obstructed by a pile of smelly couches. But I had spied the kid’s books, so off I sidled. After managing not to hurt myself or knock over the couches (no mean feat) I was wedged in between the shelves and the couches with no room to crouch to look at the bottom shelves and trying to lean at a very odd angle, and then I spied this…
Which I of course snatched up (with some difficulty mind). It had no jacket, and the boards were a bit worn. Dave decided to look it up on his phone and tell me it was worth $1. I thought I’d keep it for myself then, as it had these wonderful illustrations by Michel Simeon which I hadn’t seen before
Of course Dave told me he was waiting for my email when I remembered to have a better look at it when I got home, after a good long nap. This is, in fact, the first British Edition from 1967, not as valuable as the American edition printed earlier, but a little gem nonetheless (and he got the email of course)
It is also the first Roald Dahl first edition I have ever found, and led me to the usual dilemma of a book seller who is also a book collector (and why it should belong to me) I have, however, photographed and listed it, and would like to share some of the amazing illustrations
You can view all the illustrations on my Facebook album. Enjoy! I think it’s time for another visit with a childhood favourite.