Bewildering Stories

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Book Review:
Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatchers

by Jerry Wright

Peter and the Starcatchers
Author: Dave Barry
and Ridley Pearson
Publisher: Disney Books
Mass Paper: 480 pages
Price: $7.99
I was at a book kiosk at the airport looking for something for the flight back. I had a 90% read copy of The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud which was a re-read (and now I find that I haven't reviewed it. Oh well, save it for later along with Anselm Audley's Inquisition) and I knew I would finish it before the first hop was over. And I was right. So... What to read... Looking in the SF and Fantasy section were all the series books one could want, and many that no one could want. No, that's not true. Obvious best smellers. I mean best sellers. Oh well.

Anyway sitting up there along with a sequel to Inkheart was a book called Peter and the Starcatchers by, of all people, Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson! How curious. I picked it up and read the first few pages. Mmmm... well done, and starting to drag me in. At this point I had NO idea that the book purported to be a sequel to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. I mean after all, anyone who has read Barrie's classic knows Peter was carried off by fairies as a baby from his pram in Kensington Gardens. So, this Peter must be someone different, because he is a twelve- or thirteen-year-old orphan boy who has been dumped aboard this ratty old ship with five other kids from the Orphanage. So hey. Call it an alternative history of Peter Pan.

This is theoretically a prequel to the original Peter Pan story, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I get the feeling that Barry and Pearson have never read the original, because so much of it is Disney, and so little is Barrie. Does this make it a bad book? No, not at all. It was extreme fun, well written, and with two very enjoyable protagonists: Peter (of course) and a "kick-butt and take names" 14-year-old young lady named Molly Aster, who is an apprentice "Starcatcher".

It was enlightening to read the reviews on Amazon, because the kids at whom it was aimed, as a group, loved it almost totally. Many adults, and the Barrie purists, hated it. I guess part of the problem was that the original edition is massively flawed, with writing gaffes and editorial mis-cues as well as typos through-out. This seems to have been repaired in the paperback edition I purchased, as I am rather sensitized to such things these days, and I didn't catch any.

So, anyway, this book tells the story of how Neverland came to be, how the mermaids were created, where Tinkerbell came from (and I guess where all the little flittery fairies must come from), how Peter learned to fly, how Hook came to be, and oh yes... That magic dust. Which reminded me of Cheech and Chong's "Santa Claus and His Old Lady".

If all you know is Disney, you'll probably love this story. If you are a J.M. Barrie purist, I imagine you'll dislike it intensely. And if you just would like a light-hearted adventure book with some interesting characters, well, I'd say read Peter and the Starcatchers. This book has been popular enough that there will be at least one sequel, and perhaps other "Starcatcher" books. For an enlightening look at the authors, Powell's Books in Portland, OR interviewed the authors on their book tour.

Copyright © 2006 Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

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