Humorist Dave Barry and suspense writer Ridley Pearson have clearly taken great delight in writing a 400-plus page prequel of sorts to Scottish dramatist J.M. Barrie's beloved Peter Pan stories. The result is a fast-paced and fluffy pirate adventure, complete with talking porpoises, stinky rogues, possible cannibals, a flying crocodile, biting mermaids, and a much-sought-after trunk full of magical glowing green "starstuff." Ever hear of Zeus? Michelangelo? Attila the Hun? According to 14-year-old Molly Aster they all derived their powers from starstuff that occasionally falls to Earth from the heavens. On Earth, it is the Starcatchers' job to rush to the scene and collect the starstuff before it falls into the hands of the Others who use its myriad powers for evil.
On board the ship Never Land, an orange-haired boy named Peter, the leader of a group of orphaned boys being sent off to work as servants in King Zarboff the Third's court, is puzzled by his shipmate Molly's fantastical story of starstuff, but it inextricably binds him to her. Peter vows to help his new, very pretty friend Molly (a Starcatcher's apprentice) keep a mysterious trunk full of the stuff out of the clutches of the pirate Black Stache, a host of other interested parties, and ultimately King Zarboff the Third.
The downright goofy, modern 8-year-old boy humor sometimes clashes with an old-time pirate sensibility, and the rapid-fire dialogue, while well paced, is far from inventive. Still, the high-seas hijinks and desert-island shenanigans will keep readers turning the pages. Greg Call's wonderful black-and-white illustrations are deliciously old-fashioned and add plenty of atmosphere to a silly, swashbuckling story that shows us how Peter Pan came to fly and why he, and his story, will never get old. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson
From School Library Journal
Grade 5-9–This prequel to Peter Pan refers as much to the 1953 animated Disney film as to J. M. Barrie's original play and novel. The early chapters introduce the archetypal antagonists: Peter, leader of a group of orphan boys being sent into slavery aboard the Never Land, and Black Stache, a fearsome pirate who commands a villainous crew. New characters include Molly Aster and her father. Molly, at 14, is an apprentice Starcatcher, a secret society formed to keep evildoers from obtaining "starstuff," magic material that falls to earth and conveys happiness, power, increased intelligence, and the ability to fly. Inevitably, the ships wreck off a tropical island and a trunk of starstuff is temporarily lost. Here, readers meet more familiar characters: the mermaids in their lagoon; the indigenous people who live in the jungle (modern versions of Barrie's redskins); and, of course, the crocodile. The authors plait multiple story lines together in short, fast-moving chapters, with the growing friendship between Molly and Peter at the narrative's emotional center. Capitalizing on familiar material, this adventure is carefully crafted to set the stage for Peter's later exploits. This smoothly written page-turner just might send readers back to the original.–Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams
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