Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Peter Pan and Wendy by J. M. Barrie

Peter Pan and Wendy by J. M. Barrie
Illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Sterling edition, copyrighted 2004 (illustrations)/2010
Sterling Children's Books
216 pages, incl. foreward by David Barrie

I could gush all day about the illustrations in this edition of Peter Pan and Wendy, but let's start out by talking about the story. Everyone has heard of Peter Pan, right? Of course you have. I've intended to read this children's classic for quite some time, but simply hadn't gotten around to doing so. Thanks to Sterling Kids, I got the nudge I needed when they sent me a copy of this stunning edition that celebrates the upcoming 100th anniversary of the novel.

When Peter Pan flies into the window of the Darling children's nursery, Mrs. Darling slams the window and traps Peter's shadow. She means to tell Mr. Darling, but the subject frightens her just a bit; and, before she has a chance, Peter returns for his shadow and her children fly away with him to Neverland. Neverland is an adventurous world where a half-dozen Lost Boys look to Peter as their leader, a magical place of fairies, mermaids, pirates and redskins. When Wendy becomes the mother to the Lost Boys, Tinkerbell is envious and stirs up trouble. Meanwhile, the notorious Captain Hook intends to get his revenge, once and for all, on Peter for lopping off his hand. Will Wendy's presence weaken Peter's resolve? Or, is Peter simply too cocky for his own good?

Anyone who has seen the movie knows the general storyline but there is so much more to this book that I'm actually concerned that mentioning those little bits that make it special would ruin it for those who haven't read the classic. I'm glad I didn't know too much going into the book. There are plenty of surprises. For one thing, I had no idea the oft-repeated words "astonishing splashes of colour" came from Peter Pan and Wendy. And I didn't pay much attention to the fact that the children's nurse was a dog. Nana's part in the story was really quite funny.

I was also unaware that the full title of the story is Peter Pan and Wendy and that Wendy had such a prominent role. In fact, Wendy is lured to Neverland by promises that she can mend the Lost Boys' socks and do other household chores. When I wrote my review of the book at Goodreads, I skimmed a few other reviews and found that some people consider the book "sexist" or offensive. It did bother me a bit, at first, that Wendy's sole purpose was to play the mother and do all the work keeping house, but then it occurred to me that little girls at least used to pretend to do just that. I "played house", pretending to feed and tend my "babies", sewing little outfits for my dolls and bathing them in the sink. Maybe little girls don't do that anymore, but if nothing else the story was certainly a product of its time.

The biggest surprise to me was that the real book is dramatically different from and much, much better than the Disneyfied version. Peter Pan was never one of my favorite Disney movies, I must confess, and I'm still not fond of the idea of a little boy who refuses to grow up. But, you simply cannot beat the beautiful language of the classic and the surreal, wacky world. I definitely wasn't expecting an Alice-in-Wonderland-like, sometimes nonsensical story; although, who knows what I expected. Perhaps a more straightforward storyline, a bit magical but without that strange cross between dream and reality. I was also surprised by the violence, but being a person who avoids violence in books and movies, I suppose I'm always caught off-guard when there's a bit more than expected.

A side note: I began reading the book at home and then read part of the book on my husband's iPad on the plane flight to London. When I switched to the iPad version, I desperately missed the beautiful illustrations. I hardly read a word while we were in London, which was great because Robert Ingpen's illustrations are fabulous and I was happy to finish up by reading the book with the pretty pictures.

The bottom line: A fun, beautifully written and somewhat surreal classic. I particularly recommend this edition for collecting or gift-giving (or, if you're a sick puppy like me, unwarranted self-indulgence). Some may find either the violence or Wendy's role as mother to the Lost Boys upsetting. I found both a little jarring but the adventurous storyline captured me and I pretty much smiled through the reading of the book. It's really charming in many ways.

Mushy, gushy thanks to Derry and Sterling Children's Books for the surprise review copy!

In other news:

My life is currently completely dominated by two kitties duking it out. Argh. I truly had no idea what I was getting into with Isabel. Behind that cute little face is a surprising streak of terror. We have some discipline work to do. Fiona is still a bit miffed but she is definitely the calmer of the two girls. She really is my ideal cat, personality-wise, so it's been rough seeing that vaguely sad glance Fi gives me when Isabel dominates playtime. Sometimes, I have to put Izzy in "her" room (the utility room) to give poor Fiona a break. But, I do think they'll eventually adapt if Fiona doesn't let Isabel beat up on her. She is an awfully mild-mannered little sweetheart, my Fi.

Speaking of the little hellion: Izzy is very curious about the camera.

Fiona Friday will not be forgotten, but it might be posted a tad late. Happy Reading!

Bookfool and Kitties

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post at Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. Self-indulgent sick puppies unite! I'd love to pick up this book, the illustrations sound DIVINE. Have you seen Finding Neverland? Highly recommend it. And sorry to hear about the kitty scuffles. Here's hoping Izzy will chill once she learns who rules the roost. (Fiona, naturally!) :)

  2. The book sounds gorgeous.... and oh, getting a new cat can be such a chore! Good luck!

  3. Peter Pan does sound sexist, but it was probably appropriate at the time it was written. I love the photo of Izzy!

  4. Rosemary,

    Wahoo, another self-indulgent, sick puppy! Go, us! LOL It's really worth buying a copy of this one, if only to sit and stare at the cover. "Divine" is a good way to describe the illustrations.

    Yes, I've seen Finding Neverland; in fact, I own a copy. After I viewed it for the first time, I bought a book about J. M. Barrie but I haven't read it and it's going to be hard to get to till I clean Kiddo's room. I had a shelf of my own books in Kiddo's room till he decided that was ridiculous and shoved half my books to the back, dumped the rest in the hallway and filled the shelf in with his own books. Like mother, like son. :)

    An occasional time-out in her room seems to help calm down the little rat . . . uh, Isabel. She's just very tiring, at this point, but she's just young and hyper. I'm sure eventually she'll slow a bit and the two girls will declare a workable detante. We shall see!

  5. Amy,

    It is a beautiful book. There's a series of classics illustrated by Robert Ingpen and this is the third one I've seen. They're all gorgeous.

    Cat-wise . . . sigh. We'll survive. Fiona fit into our family like she'd been here forever, so it's a bit of a switch with Isabel. She's going to have to grow on us, I'm afraid. But, it's worth a little pain to save a tiny life. I was told she probably wouldn't last long if she went to "the barn".


    Exactly. It's sexist from our point of view in this time period, but with older books you have to remember there was a different context in which the book was written. The word "redskins" wouldn't likely make it past an editor today, either.

    Thanks. Isn't that a funny photo of Izzy? I was surprised it came out in focus. She moves toward the camera so quickly that I have to delete a lot of kitty-blur photos.

  6. I don't remember Peter Pan being horribly sexist when I read it so it was probably back in the dark ages, but still ages after it was written. What could be a more enticing lure than darning socks? I probably hadn't a clue what that meant.

    Izzy is cute. Poor Fi. Little sisters can be such a pain.

  7. I've always been so fond of the original Peter Pan. Especially the sauciness of Tinker Bell! Disney really left a lot out of her character and toned down the story quite a bit. My favorite illustration edition is the one with pictures by Trina Schart Hyman. You should find one just to look at it. They're beautiful!

  8. Carrie,

    I find the idea of darning socks extremely enticing, but I also think Wendy was infatuated with Peter and yearning for adventure. It's quite possible Barrie was ahead of his time, sending Wendy (and her brothers) on an adventure. Wendy was a key character, after all.

    Obviously, I'm tired. I babble when I am. Yes, poor Fi. I think she lives for the hours that Izzy's put away in her room for the night.


    Aw, I wish I'd known about that when I was in London. It's likely I won't be able to find the edition you're referring to, simply because our bookstores only tend to carry "of the moment" titles, but I'll scratch that down and keep an eye open for it.

    Yep, exactly - the Disney version is terribly watered down. I had no idea the story was so vibrant and quirky. It's definitely a great example of why one shouldn't avoid the book if you've already seen the movie.

  9. ...and didn't like it. Forgot that last part. Told you guys I'm tired.


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