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Roald Dahl Museum features drawings by artist and illustrator Nancy Ekholm Burkert
James and the Giant Peach (first published in the USA in 1961, and the UK in 1967) was the first children’s book that Nancy illustrated, and Roald Dahl’s ‘breakout’ book for children. © Nancy Ekholm Burkert.

GREAT MISSENDEN.- Most of us associate the drawings of Sir Quentin Blake with Roald Dahl – however his very first book for children, James and the Giant Peach (1961) featured illustrations by renowned American artist and illustrator Nancy Ekholm Burkert.

This summer the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre will be stepping back almost 60 years with a multi-sensory exhibition that explores, for the very first time, how these two creative minds worked together to create a classic.

Now 86-years old, Nancy has collaborated with the Museum to curate the exhibition. Central to the display are fifteen original images, including full colour and black and white illustrations, along with a number of unpublished, early sketches (from the Museum archive and Harvard’s Houghton Library).

James and the Giant Peach (first published in the USA in 1961, and the UK in 1967) was the first children’s book that Nancy illustrated, and Roald Dahl’s ‘breakout’ book for children. Inspiration for the story came when looking at the trees in the orchard in his Buckinghamshire home, Roald wondered what would happen if one of the apples didn’t stop growing? This became a bedtime story for his own children, which, combined with Roald’s flying experiences in the RAF, eventually became James and the Giant Peach.

Nancy researched her illustrations in detail, first creating sketches for Roald Dahl to see, then producing the finished illustrations in wax crayons on transparent sheets – a method of printing called Dinobase. She even included Dahl in one of the drawings, which will be featured in the exhibition.

The Roald Dahl Archive held at the Museum reveals the evolution of Roald’s most famous stories. Instead of a peach, Dahl originally started writing about a giant cherry, having first been inspired by an apple. The types of insects featured also changed with the drafts, and Roald’s original list of insect options will also be on display.

Visitors will also be able to listen to extracts from Roald Dahl’s story, hear a ‘peachy’ soundscape created with Museum visitors and also smell the fragrant peach for that sense of being right inside the book.

Steve Gardam, Director of The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre says “Nancy Ekholm Burkert’s remarkable artwork helped create one of the most memorable and beloved children’s books of the 20th century. For James and the Giant Peach fans of all ages: those who remember these magical illustrations from their childhood and a new generation discovering them for the first time, this exhibition is a unique opportunity to see these beautiful images while experiencing sounds and smells that evoke the extraordinary journey of James and his friends.”

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