From School Library Journal
Grade 8-10--A story about Wendy Darling before she met Peter Pan. Punished one evening by the horrible and abusive Nanny Holborn, she sneaks out of the nursery to spy on one of her parents' glamorous parties. When she sees her father kiss Lady Cunningham on the mouth, Wendy is confused and stunned. After she and her brothers are sent to Uncle Arthur's country estate for the summer, Mr. Darling sinks lower, crashing his car while driving drunk, losing all of his money, and getting fired from his job. Wendy loves being at Rosegrove, where she is able to see Thomas, a teenager considered "soft in the head." Seeing her mother hugging him confuses Wendy even more. She eventually learns that Thomas is her brother, who was not perfect enough for her father. In a rapid and pat conclusion, Mr. Darling reforms, the Cunninghams move away, and Thomas's artistic abilities are recognized. Wallace draws an interesting portrait of the world of the privileged classes in early-20th-century London. There are some elements of fantasy: Wendy can read the thoughts of Nana, the big black Newfoundland that dispenses advice; and her final dream of flying comes from a creation of Thomas's mind, a young boy who would never grow up. But who is the audience for this novel? The protagonist, while old for her years, is only nine, yet the themes seem more appropriate for older readers. An additional purchase where rewritten and expanded fairy tales are in demand.--Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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Gr. 7-10. Using Wendy Darling from Peter Pan as her focal point, Wallace re-creates the upstairs-downstairs world of Edwardian society that was both hypocritical and destructive to its children. Nine-year-old Wendy is aware of how little sway she has in her home. The nanny can hit her and her brothers and fill them with castor oil, and her oblivious mother doesn't notice. To gain power, Wendy becomes a spy and in so doing learns something she doesn't want to know--her father is having an affair. Wallace is a supremely adept writer. She cleverly uses the forms of the Victorian novel, and she gets inside Wendy's skin so well that readers can feel the child's confusion, anger, and fear as Wendy tries to dissociate herself from what's going on around her. But who are these readers? Middle-graders who pick this up thinking they have found a new way into the Peter Pan saga will probably find this more than they bargained for. It will be young people considerably older than Wendy who can understand the story's complexities, and some may even be drawn by the adult characters, who are allowed their own voices in the story. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved