I’ve been a cautious fan of Dave Barry’s for years (a fan because he’s hilarious when he tries to be; cautious, because he is prone to being lazy and uses crude/foul language as a substitute for comedy. A common malady among comedians these days), so the author’s name alone peaked my interest in this book. Peter Pan is one of my favorite childhood stories, and I didn’t want that memory tarnished by truckloads of bad language. Thankfully, Mr. Barry takes Mr. Barrie’s ideas and uses his most industriously clean and funny efforts in years to tell the story of , basically, “what happened before Peter Pan learned to fly?”
Plot: An orphan named Peter is taken from a cruel boys home, along with a group of boys his age (he always claims to be one year older than the oldest), and put on a ship. Also on board the ship is a girl named Molly, who happens to have a careless governess, a fondness for hungry waifs (she shares her food with the boys), and a special secret. Molly’s father is on the ship ahead of them, a certain pirate is en route to get between Molly and her father, and Peter is too curious about what they are fussing over to stay in the dark very long. On board one of the three ships is a box of stardust, with special abilities in itself and those it touches, and Molly is a Starcatcher, whose kind is trying to protect it from the dark Others. This is only the mid beginning, and a lot more upsets and revelations will ensue before the end, that had me stuck to my seat for the entire ride.
Negatives: most of the violence, if not all, in this book is played for laughs, so a literal list of the violent content will not be following. Most of the time, any “hurt”s are lost in the laughter. There are some tense/scary parts for younger kids, such as when the mermaids fight the pirates and blood is described as clouding the water, and the orphans are given worms to eat and the like. The most objectionable parts, for me, were when the mermaids are formed (using stardust), and they are described a lot like evolving, even referring to the box of stardust as “the creator.” There are some inappropriate moments, with subtle references to extramarital relations, and the mermaids are not described per se, but the fact that they have no clothes above the waist is left implied if unsaid. Also, “The Ladies”, are sails that look like a corset top, flying above the pirate deck.
Postives: This book has so many good points, I can’t begin to touch on them all, but my favorite parts were definitely the outsmart-the-bad-guy sections. Peter has to learn to be a real leader, going to find food for the hungry boys and finding ways to hide those forays from the pirates. And saving the mermaids, and Molly, from the Pirates takes a very long time but there were lots of clever bits there. When Peter has to save the boys from the crocodile, the results are rather humorous. Also, the Indians are not omnipotently wise, and actually make a mistake or two, which was nice: I get SO tired of the noble savage bit, it was great to see them acting like real people (intelligent, useful people, but still people, not Greek gods). There are moments of supremely humorous dialogue, which alleviate alot of the tension. All of the (as yet unnamed) Lost Boys have personalities, and they cooperate a lot like a family of boys would be expected to; with plenty of infighting and unified action.
In Essence: I love Peter! He’s silly and sweet and funny and totally boyish, without being the least bit an annoying brat. I understand what the ladies see in him, in this one, and its also easy to understand why he can’t see anything much in them. Also, the abundance of references to fairy tale lore is really funny (Tinkerbell, for instance, is a fairy created from a green and yellow bird that was overexposed to starstuff.) This book grabs you right at the start and doesn’t let go until the end (when I promptly reached for the sequel).