Friday, January 12, 2007

Peter Pan in Scarlet

OK, so I admit that the original Peter Pan is one of my favorite books of all time, and I'll also admit that I just couldn't get into the Dave Barry "prequel" to Peter Pan (though I generally like Dave Barry). I also don't care too much for the Disney Peter Pan, which to my mind took the edge off that rather bad and dangerous boy, and made childhood entirely too sweet and light. My favorite thing about Barrie's Peter Pan is that the children are sometimes savage and self-centered along with being cute and brave. Barrie showed us children before living rounded the edges and taught them to hide the raging ego within. Anyway, this all made me approach Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean with trepidation, but I'm happy to report that I think the author did a good job of reporting from the childhood front. Her kids are a nice mix of appealing and sometimes shockingly selfish and thoughtless. So here's the low-down: The Darlings (except for Michael, who was "lost" in WWI) and the Lost Boys are all grown up now. Tootles is a judge and Slightly is a famous musician, and Wendy is a supremely sensible mother who attends committee meetings. They all start dreaming of Neverland, waking up in warpaint, or with pistols under their pillows. Through the magic of capturing the fairy born in a baby's first laugh and putting on the clothes of their own children, they manage to retreat into childhood and fly to Neverland, where they find the land in peril. Danger and adventure ensue.

Now I like to assess children's books by whether I think children will really like them or if adults think children *should* like them. I'm not a big fan of books that adults think children *should* like - either the moralizing ones (ugh - I hate the Berenstain Bears) or those that appeal to parents who love books like House of Sand and Fog (are you listening The Book Thief?) I'm not entirely sure about this one.... I know I liked it enormously for myself, and I think children will like it, even if they've never been exposed to the slightly twisted world of Barrie's Peter Pan. The chapters are just short enough, and generally end in a cliffhanger that will keep them reading. Those who haven't read the original might have a little trouble at first with the characters, as the Lost Boys (one of whom delightfully becomes a little lost girl as the only available clothes to send him back to childhood belong to his daughter) have a more prominent place in the action in this book, but I think they may still find it a good read, even if they don't know/remember each Lost Boy specifically. So all in all I would say this was quite a good book, and worth reading, and would appeal to children from about 3rd to 6th grade, or to anyone who loves that slightly twisted Barrie Peter Pan world.

Here's some info on the book:

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