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James and the Giant Peach Study Guide

written by: Daniel Caverly • edited by: Carly Stockwell • updated: 11/29/2012

Read this guide to better understand the novel, James and the Giant Peach. You'll find key vocabulary words to learn, as well as a summary of each chapter.

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    Chapter Summaries & Key Vocabulary

    Chapters 1-3
    nuisance
    ramshackle
    permitted
    desolate
    wistful
    peculiar
    spectacles
    hideous
    luminous
    crouching
    murmured

    Ch. 1: A young boy named James Henry Trotter loses his parents in an accident at the London Zoo. He is sent to live with his cruel Aunts, Sponge and Spiker. There, he leads a lonely, miserable life.

    Ch. 2: James performs his endless chores as his Aunts sit idly by, belittling him. James runs off for solitude.

    Chapters. 3/4: James meets an old man who gives him a sack of magic crocodile tongues. The man tells James to use the tongues in a spell that will improve his life.

    Chapters 4-10
    furiously
    precarious
    frantically
    vanished
    bulging
    ridiculous
    dangling
    mammoth
    inspecting
    cautiously
    seething

    Ch. 5: James accidentally spills the tongues which disappear into the soil and into the roots of a barren peach tree.

    Chapters. 6-8: A single peach grows to an enormous size. Sponge and Spiker hatch a plan to charge admission to see it. The first day is a financial success, yet they continue to mistreat their nephew.

    Chapters 9-10: James goes into the garden that night to investigate the giant peach. He finds an opening and goes inside, eventually entering the enormous pit.

    Chapters 11-17
    intently
    reclining
    famished
    colossal
    suspended
    ghastly
    insidious
    plunging
    coiled
    vertically

    Chapters 11-13: Once inside the pit, James meets several giant insects: The Old Green Grasshopper, a Spider, a Ladybug, a Centipede, an Earthworm, and a Glowworm. James learns that they were all enlarged by the spilled magic tongues that affected the peach itself. Soon, the tired insects fall asleep as James begins to feel a bond developing.

    Chapters 14-16: The insects cut the giant peach from the tree. It rolls over Sponge and Spiker, killing them. The peach continues to roll through the countryside and into the village, destroying many buildings. It rolls off a cliff and splashes down to float in the Atlantic Ocean.

    Chapters 17-18: James and the insects recover from the jostling journey and climb out on top of the peach. As everyone is hungry, James suggests eating small pieces of the peach which everyone does happily.

    Chapters 18-22
    peering
    genius
    shriveling
    affectionate
    massive
    filthy
    pandemonium
    threshing
    balderdash
    majestic
    tethered

    Chapters 19-22: The peaceful scene is interrupted when sharks appear, biting at the bottom of the peach. Fearing for their lives, the insects turn to James for help. He directs Spider to spin massive amounts of silk to create ropes. Using the Earthworm as bait for hovering seagulls, James snares one of the birds. After 501 seagulls are tethered to the peach, it is lifted out of the water and carried safely into the air.

    Chapters 23-27
    anxious
    awkward
    spellbound
    rambunctious
    inquire
    companion
    gradual
    obvious
    wraithlike
    stammer

    Ch. 23: The soaring peach is spotted by the Captain of the Queen Mary.

    Chapters 24-25: After the insects rejoice in their being saved by Jamesʼ idea, Earthworm and Ladybug argue over whoʼs more beneficial to farmers. Centipede revels at being a pest.

    Ch. 26: Centipede slides over the edge of the peach, but is rescued by another silk rope that Spider produces.

    Ch. 27: The peach flies peacefully near a large bank of clouds. The peach crew see a group of wispy Cloud Men creating hailstones. Centipede shouts insults at the Cloud Men, angering them. They begin throwing hailstones at the peach. All of the insects are hit and suffer damage. Just as the situation grows desperate, the peach is carried out of range by the seagulls.

    Chapters 28-38
    shimmer
    hypnotized
    enthralled
    malevolent
    encased
    deluge
    melancholy
    glisten
    plummet
    pinnacle
    vermicious
    eccentric
    procession

    Ch. 28: James discovers the hailstones have punctured the peach. Then, they notice the Cloud Men building a massive rainbow. The rainbow is lowered from the clouds by ropes which entangle the peach. The peach crew panic as one of the Cloud Men climbs down a rope toward them. Centipede severs the rope and the Cloud Man falls away. The remaining Cloud Men retaliate by dumping rainbow paint all over Centipede.

    Chapters 29-31: The seagulls finally pull the peach away from the rainbow cloud just as the Cloud Men attack again, this time with a gigantic sheet of water. Once again, the team escape disaster as the seagulls fly away. As the peach floats past the rest of the cloud city, the team sees groups of cheery Cloud Women and Children. The Cloud Men were, after all, just protecting their families.

    Chapters 32-33: The peach finally crosses the Atlantic and reaches New York City. Fear grips the citizens as the peach hovers over them.

    Ch. 34: James orders Centipede to cut the ropes in order to lower the peach. Just then an airplane flies above the peach and severs all the ropes at once. The peach plunges downward.

    Chapters 35-36: Fearing certain death, James and the insects have a heartfelt goodbye. Then at the last moment, the peach is safely impaled on the Empire StateBuildingʼs antenna.

    Chapters 37-38: James and the insects are met by the shocked Chief of Police and the Fire Captain of New York City. Frightened by the giant insects, James puts everyone at ease by introducing them with a rousing and complimentary song. The team is then evacuated safely from the peach.

    Chapter 39: We learn that each insect becomes successful and goes on to lead contented lives. James ends up living in Central Park inside the peachʼs pit. He is visited daily by visitors and is never sad or lonely for the rest of his life.

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