Saturday, January 10, 2009

REVIEW: Peter Pan

Barrie, J.M. (2003). Peter Pan. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks.


It seems with several movie versions, Hook, Finding Neverland, and the actual play, nobody could escape knowing something of the story of Peter Pan. However, it seems that only a small number of people actually read the book these days. Those that do, will discover a shockingly complicated and difficult text. Jumps in time and point of view, numerous metaphors, images, cultural and historic references and an interrupting narrator will make this a challenging read for many young readers.

Plus Peter is really forgetful and potentially annoying.

Nonetheless, there are uses for this book and exercises that may be completed. Just don’t do them with too young of a crowd. If I were to use this book in the classroom it would be with high school students. Since there are so many rich themes and metaphors and since most students are probably familiar with some version of the narrative this book could be of good use in introducing analysis and literary theory.

It is undeniable that Barrie captured a sense of magic, fun, and childhood that most children’s writers cannot help but desire to equal. And because of this, there are great fun exercises that can be done, such as having children create or draw their own maps of Neverland. Since the book is also a play, it lends itself to being reenacted. This could help with visualization.

Also, a special note if teachers use the edition of the book forwarded by author Susan Cooper—Her comments would influence anyone’s reading of the text. For me, most striking is the delicate description of Barrie as ”yearning for little-boy love” (p. XVI).

Activities to do with the book:

Have students create their own Neverlands, analyze the book’s literary themes, enact scenes, research Barrie’s life, discuss the imagination and separation between reality and fantasy, consider issues of power and the conditions of motherhood, the construction of masculinity and femininity etc.

Students could also discuss the many reinterpretations and sequels to the narrative.

Favorite Quotes:

“All children, except one, grow up” (p. 1).

“To die will be an awfully big adventure” (p. 123).

“I’m youth, I’m joy” (p. 195).

So my few, but wonderful readers, have you read the complete text of Peter Pan?

Time until the ALA Award Winners Are Announced: 16 Days


  1. I've read it... and I agree it's much more complex and dark than most people realize. It's one of those that are neither for kids nor adults - each getting something entirely different out of it.

    I also am fond of this one, which is VERY different from all the others...have a look!


  2. :::cringes:::

    I have not. Sorry! :)

  3. Jeez - pardon me for answering the question and making a recommendation.



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