Monday, September 25, 2006

Peter and the Starcatchers

Peter and the Starcatchers

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Date: 2004   —   $17.99   —   Book

product page


Fiction, Juvenile Fantasy

Wonderful are the children's books that come about because of children, because they most clearly speak to what the children want to read. This one came about because a certain author's daughter asked him just how a certain flying boy and a certain pirate came to meet, and the resulting narrative is an adventure that, thankfully, does not end up too sappily sweet (even though it did get the approval of the Disney corporation.)

This is mainly because the authors are men who can write. One might be misled by Dave Barry's over-the-top humor in his columns and books, or Ridley Pearson's hardboiled mysteries, into thinking that these two would be incapable of stretching beyond their respective genres. One would be wrong. This is a story that feels plausibly old without being old-fashioned, incorporates absurd elements without making the story a Dali-esque parody of the Alice in Wonderland stripe, and brings about a Peter that, honestly, I like better than the J.M. Barrie classic. Moreover, it includes a good explanation of just about everything in Never-Never Land without making it too magical, because while children are fine with some magic, they instinctively understand that too much feels like cheating. (Deus ex machina is actually an appropriate phrase to use; I leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine why.)

The portraits of the folk of this indeterminate time (sometime after the Industrial Revolution) are vivid; Peter is resourceful, Molly is a wonderful foreshadowing of Wendy, and Captain Stache - still two-handed - is downright demented. (One gets the sense that he's actually improved by the time of Peter Pan; romantic images aside, pirates were generally not nice or neat people.) And they didn't rein in Dave Barry too much to let some humor in; there's a particular puncturing of the contemporary definition of "savage" that neatly skewered every stereotypical meeting enshrined in books of that era (and the next fifty years.)

Do I recommend it? Of course! It fits neatly into the world that Barrie created; not without a few gaps here and there, but no story is ever 100% complete, and now there is an answer to a daughter's question.

No comments: