My favorite childhood book was James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. I think it was my second grade teacher that read it aloud to us. After she read it, I wanted to hear the story again and again. Our grade school had a small, classroom sized library and I could tell you exactly where that book was shelved. I must have checked it out a dozen times.

My son, who is eight, does not enjoy reading. It has been a struggle to find a book that he likes. I suggested he read James and the Giant Peach. My husband heard us talking and said that it was also his favorite book when he was a kid. Somehow, we talked him into reading it with us and I bought a copy of the book.

To keep my son interested, we take turns reading aloud. I read a page and then he reads a page. On one of the pages I was reading, I was surprised to see the Centipede call someone an ass. Now, I am not a book burner by any means, but I am surprised that a children’s book had used the word in that way. In fact, by page 93, he had called used the word three times. (Quote on page 93 – “Don’t be an ass!” the Centipede told him. “We’re not in the water now!”)

Does this surprise anyone else? This book was published in England in 1961. I wonder if the use of “ass” in that place and time was less of shock than it is to me now. I don’t remember seeing it when I read it years ago. I’m sure that would have been the talk of 2nd grade – that’s the book where they say “ass”.

In Roald Dahl’s defense, Centipede is the kind of character that you expect to swear. He is sort of a brass fellow and a bully to Earthworm. His big mouth gets him in trouble with the Cloud Men and endangers the lives all of the peach inhabitants. I guess if you think about it, he could say much worse. Just not in a children’s book!

Advertisements