"All children, except one, grow up." Thus begins a great classic of children's literature that we all remember as magical. What we tend to forget, because the tale of Peter Pan and Neverland has been so relentlessly boiled down, hashed up, and coated in saccharine, is that J.M. Barrie's original version is also witty, sophisticated, and delightfully odd. The Darling children, Wendy, John, and Michael, live a very proper middle-class life in Edwardian London, but they also happen to have a Newfoundland for a nurse. The text is full of such throwaway gems as "Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter Pan when she was tidying up her children's minds," and is peppered with deliberately obscure vocabulary including "embonpoint," "quietus," and "pluperfect." Lest we forget, it was written in 1904, a relatively innocent age in which a plot about abducted children must have seemed more safely fanciful. Also, perhaps, it was an age that expected more of its children's books, for Peter Pan
has a suppleness, lightness, and intelligence that are "literary" in the best sense. In a typical exchange with the dastardly Captain Hook, Peter Pan describes himself as "youth... joy... a little bird that has broken out of the egg," and the author interjects: "This, of course, was nonsense; but it was proof to the unhappy Hook that Peter did not know in the least who or what he was, which is the very pinnacle of good form." A book for adult readers-aloud to revel in--and it just might teach young listeners to fly. (Ages 5 and older) --Richard Farr
From School Library Journal
Grade 3-7-- A pleasure to view, read, and hold, this new edition of an old favorite deserves space in every collection. From jacket painting, to cover (with Tinker Bell embossed in gold), to endpapers (dark maps of Neverland), Gustafson's artwork opens doors to glimpses of old friends and to new interpretations. Fifty oil paintings reveal expressive, changing characters. Peter Pan is dewy-cheeked, spry, wicked. Maternal Wendy is tender, then stoic. Even Hook is at times downcast. The Indians, proud and handsome, avoid stereotype. Masterly composition and use of light create dramatic full-page illustrations, accompanied by cameos of ordinary objects (kite, bear, tea kettle). Compared to Hague's illustrations for Peter Pan (Holt, 1987), which were dark and surreal, these are light and vital. Handsome bookmaking, Barrie's text, and Gustafson's pictures combine to breathe new life into Peter Pan's old shadow. --Carolyn Noah, Central Mass. Regional Library System, Worcester, MA
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