Wednesday, January 9, 2008

J. M. Barrie

Peter Pan and Wendy
by J. M. Barrie
Recommended Age: 8+

Written in 1906 to benefit a London children's hospital, this classic has gone through such a wringer of stage, film, and animated adaptations, not to mention picture-book retellings, that reading or hearing the original text is now somewhat unusual; but not nearly as unusual as the story itself, which is by turns witty and bizarre and melancholy and gruesome, and always narrated in a uniquely teasing way.

I would be surprised if I had to say much to introduce this story. If you haven't already heard it, read it, or watched it acted out in some form, it is high time you did. And I think you'll find the original Sir James Barrie novel the best version of all. Attach whatever meaning to it you will, or none at all. This tale of a boy who is eternally "gay and innocent and heartless" has earned a permanent place in the folklore of childhood, haunting our hearts and minds and even our language with its images: Captain Hook, Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys, Tiger Lily, Peter's shadow, and more.

This book will always be in print, and if you don't have it and can't afford to buy it, you'll find it in any public library. Enjoy Neverland, stocked with the things that fill the dreams of little boys (or used to, anyway) and cherish the bittersweetness of one girl's reluctant surrender to the inevitability of Growing Up. And don't forget the address: second to the right, and straight on till morning.

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