Friday, May 18, 2007

Book Review: Peter and the Starcatchers

This book, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, was inspired by Paige Pearson who asked her father one night exactly how a flying boy met a certain pirate.

Peter and the Starcatchers, is, if you will, a prequel to the more famous J.M. Barrie story, Peter and Wendy. It begins on a ship, the Never Land, taking five orphan boys from England to the land of Rundoon, where they will serve the king. Peter is their undisputed leader. Also onboard is Molly Aster, who has amazing green eyes, and captures Peter's attention. And possibly his heart, although both of them, being preteens, don't quite know what to do with their attraction. Molly is traveling with her governess to Rundoon where her father, who is on the Wasp, a faster ship, is an emissary from the Queen of England. On board is a trunk, old and beaten up, that seems to make people very happy and, quite literally, light on their feet when they touch it.

The captain of the Never Land is a buffoon. The First Mate, Slank, is the one who truly runs the ship. And he runs a tight one.

Lurking about is the Black Stache, a fearsome pirate and scourge of the seas. He knows about the trunk filled with treasure that Molly's father is taking to the King of Rundoon. Stache attacks the Wasp and finds the chest empty. He commandeers the Wasp, renames it the Jolly Roger, and sets off after the Never Land, which has the trunk with the treasure.

Meanwhile, Peter has caught Molly talking with dolphins. She reveals the secret of her identity and what the treasure truly is. (Her last name is a very clever hint.)

Before he can catch them, a storm comes up and both the Jolly Roger and the Never Land find themselves on an island. The natives don't particularly like the English, and with good reason. Their solution--to feed the children to "Mr. Grin," an enormous crocodile.

The trunk washes up on shore and causes some very odd changes in the local fish population.

Will Peter and the Boys escape the jaws of Mr. Grin? Will Molly save the treasure and reunite with her father? And who the heck is Tinkerbell?

The answers are in the story. And, except for some minor quibbles about changes in details and names, this is a very satisfactory explanation of it all. Most of the chapters are short enough to read to an older child at bedtime (very few pictures and those in black-and-white, so I wouldn't recommend it for toddlers). The reading level is probably around Fourth Grade or so, especially those who are familiar with the story of Peter Pan and (thank you Disney) pirates.

Peter Pan has been one of my favorite tales since I was little, so I really enjoyed this book Mr. Barry & Mr. Pearson did an excellent job with this "prequel."

On the March Hare scale: 4 out 5 Golden Bookmarks, with the caveat that this is, after all, a book for children.