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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s classic novel James & The Giant Peach, we invited middle grade students from all across Toronto to participate in a short story writing contest based on this scenario:

What if James, a lonely orphan in today’s Toronto, discovered a peach as big as a house, filled with human-sized friendly creatures?

Sierra McLean (aged 10) won the Grand Prize for the following story:


      I looked out the window of my aunt’s old one-storey apartment.  The sun was just grasping the edge of the earth and the C.N. Tower sparkled in the distance. Countless buildings lined the streets of Toronto, standing tall and proud.  I had always dreamed of leaping from one building to another, like a frog on lily pads.

    “James!  Come here!” my aunt called from the kitchen.  Aunt Molly didn’t exactly volunteer to foster me when my parents died.  In fact, she was forced to take me into her hands.  She was forced to put up with my “silly imagination”, as she called it and she was forced to offer me a place to live my life.
I would have been happier if I could live my life somewhere else… ANYWHERE else.  I wanted nothing more than to see the open road in front of me and feel the wind blowing my dark hair every which way.  But it wasn’t that easy.  Aunt Molly didn’t let me set a foot out of the house unless I was pulling weeds or watering her not-so-beautiful garden.

    Once when I was five, I attempted sneaking out in the black of night, hoping that the darkness would swallow me up… out of my Aunt’s reach.  But as I said before, it wasn’t that easy.  Molly awoke when I scared away some seemingly harmless crows nibbling at the cornstalks.  And before I knew it, she was whacking me with an old leather belt.  The pain was such that I had never experienced before, apart from the grief and mourning I felt when my parents left me.  Passed on to a new life… hopefully better than mine….


     My day dream shattered to a million pieces and I retuned (sadly) to reality.  But realizing the anger and impatience of Aunt Molly’s voice, I didn’t try to glue the pieces back together.  Instead, I trudged into our tiny kitchen, just a helpless boy…  

     “Where were you?  You were due here nearly 5 minutes ago!” Aunt Molly was usually like this.  Stern, strict, and stony - otherwise known as the three S’s.

     “You’re going to the R.O.M with me today,” she sighed. 

     My head sprang up in surprise.  I had heard of the Royal Ontario Museum, but I had never dreamed of going there!  But why would Aunt Molly take me?  Wait… Since when have I cared? 

    The drive there was long and silent, but I was smiling the whole way.  Strange noises erupted somewhere in the engine, but it was music to my ears.  Nothing could penetrate the excitement and thrill I felt in my heart.  Nothing at all.

    We were still driving, but the great museum was visible in the distance.  I looked out the window and laughed into the wind.  Maybe the wind would carry my laugh somewhere far, far away, and another orphan would hear it.  They would hear it and gain hope that a miracle might sprout somewhere in his life.  After all, the wind is a powerful thing.

  We pulled up in the parking lot (I had never been in a parking lot before) and climbed out of the rusty pick up truck.  All of the other cars seemed to be new and sparkly, but I didn’t care.  My mind was set on the inside of the museum.  I wondered how high the ceilings looked from inside… I wondered how many floors there were… the questions were endless, stretching as far as the eye could see. 

    “Hurry it up, James.” Once again Aunt Molly had shattered my daydream, but this time I WANTED to return to reality.

    I practically ran toward the museum, Aunt Molly in my wake.  When I reached the huge door, my aunt caught up with me, panting.

     “I didn’t want to bring you here, you know,” she said as she pushed open the door. 

    Ignoring Aunt Molly, I turned to face the interior of the museum.  What was inside struck me like a lightning bolt…

    Magnificent sculptures and artefacts lined the walls. Realistic wax figures, dinosaur skeletons, and interactive games were surrounded by tourists.  People and families were scattered around like marbles, pointing to planes and parachutes that hung from the ceiling.  It was beautiful.  Well, beautiful for an orphan, I guess. 

    I glanced around.  Aunt Molly seemed to have left.  Maybe she went to the bathroom.  I’d just have to discover the R.O.M. on my own.  But what ought I do first?  Everything looked so wonderful.  I scanned the museum, searching for possible options.  Maybe I should check out the dinosaur exhibit… or the vehicle section… Or the- wait, what was that?  Out of the corner of me eye I saw the most peculiar thing - a small door.  It stood alone beside a life-sized Viking.  Why would there be a door there?  And why so small? 

    I knew I shouldn’t go near the door, but it was difficult to control my curiosity.  One side of me was like a green light… telling me to go forward and explore the world beyond.  But the other was red… warning me to stop, not to go any further.  Before I knew it, the two sides were arguing rapidly.  What should I do? 

You have to see what’s in there James!
But what if I’m caught?
You won’t be!  Just do it!
But Aunt Molly could come back!!
Since when have you ever cared about Aunt Molly?
C’mon.  Don’t be a scaredy cat!
Alright, alright.  But if anything happens to me…

    "I have made my decision.  I’m going through that door.  And no one can tell me I can’t," I whispered to myself as I strolled to the Viking exhibit. 

     I pretended to read the description of the sculpture, and then sneaked swiftly through the small opening.  That was easy.  There were no security guards or anything!

    I stood up and soaked in my surroundings.  As far as I could tell, I was standing in an old storage room.  There were three brooms leaning against the unpainted walls and the floors were crafted of cement.  In the middle of the room stood a magnificent, twenty foot tall peach.  I sprinted toward it and took a bite out of the side.  It tasted promising.  I ran my hand along the fuzz.  It felt promising. 

    “Did you hear that guys?” somebody whispered. 

     I whirled around.  Surprisingly, no one was there.
   “Yeah!  Do you think someone found us?”

     There it was again.  I put my ear up to the peach.  It seemed to be coming from the inside of it!  Who (or what) could be in there?  I had to find out…

   Using my bite mark as a starting point, I scrambled up the side of the peach.  A small hole was carved where the stem should be, revealing a tunnel of some sort.  Curious, I ducked into the hole and began crawling through the tunnel ahead.

    Eventually, I reached a huge room.  Inside it there was a table, three wooden chairs, and a sofa.  On the sofa sat the strangest creature I had ever seen.  It was a bluish gray color with huge eyes, six arms, and red shoes. 

      The thing smiled, “Hello young fellow!  I’m Fred.  Welcome to our peach!”

     “Our?” I asked.

     “Oh yes.  Would you like to meet my friends?”
     “Ummm… sure,”
     “Larry, Gary, come out and meet our new friend!”

     Two more strange creatures came into view.  One was bright yellow with orange spots and one was purple.  They both had swirly antennae, plaid shirts, and little stubby arms.

     “You don’t know how long we’ve been waiting for you!”

     I was confused, “Why?”

     The one called Larry pointed to a small remote on the table, “We’ve waited years for a child to discover us.  That’s why we made the door so small.  Now that you’re here, we can finally be set free!”

      “But how can I set you free?”  I wondered.

     “The button on that remote can only be pressed by a kid.”

     “What will happen when it’s pressed?

     “The roof will open and allow the peach to fly out of it.”

     “Wow!” I jogged over to the table and jabbed the little button.

    “Thank you so much!” said Gary. 

     “No problem… I’d better get back, though,”

     “Wait!” Fred yelped, “You can’t go!  We’re already floating!”   

     “Sorry kid,” Gary patted me on the back. 

     I looked up at him and smiled, “I want to come,” I replied truthfully. 

No more chores, no more Aunt Molly, no more sorrow.  I was entering a new life, full of exploring and wonders - my two favourite things.


The Test Pilot session for The Volume One Project was held at Humber College on Sun Nov 22, 2009. Four young scribes Bronwyn Cragg, Noam Flear, Sophia Jantzi and Sophie Chase worked with Illustrator Evan Munday and YA Author Natalie Ghent to devise the story below. They then wrote a conclusion to the tale by themselves. We put the two parts together to create their own books.

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