Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
genre: adventure, fantasy
rating: 5/8 tentacles
When Peter’s orphanage dumps him and several other parent-less boys onto an old ship called The Never Land, he becomes involved with a secret, ancient battle between Starcatchers and Others to be the first to capture the powerful shooting stars that fall to earth. The story offers a magical, star-powered explanation for the existence of Barrie’s Neverland in all of its delightful enchantment.
The writing is simple and repetitious, with lots of “he said, she said, he said,” which, in my opinion, somewhat limits target readers to those who have not yet acquired a taste for more sophisticated prose: either the very young or the non-reader. I say this as someone who still loves reading children’s literature, not someone who just picked up a kid’s book and said, “Aw this writing isn’t mature enough for me.” When I look at the intelligence and humor and dexterous descriptions in some of my favorite children’s books—books I enjoyed as child—I can’t help but hold other work up to that same standard. Just compare this with Barrie’s original. And Joan Aiken. I compare everyone to Joan Aiken.
In many ways, Peter and the Starcatchers is similar to Percy Jackson & the Olympians. Both stories feature a young boy adventuring with friends. Percy learns about Greek Gods and goes on a Quest with Annabeth and Grover. Peter learns about Starcatchers and, in a questlike manner, attempts to protect a magical item from falling into pirate hands with Molly, Alf, and the other orphans. Both tales are told with a degree of silliness. However, as I read on, it became clear that Peter simply does not possess the same depth as Percy Jackson. The characters felt like characters instead of people and Peter lacked much of his Peter Pan-ness. One might attempt to justify this with: “but he’s not Peter Pan yet… Of course he started out as a normal boy!” But I won’t buy it. I want the cocky impish child from Barrie’s novel and Disney’s films. This Peter was too ordinary to be Pan.
Here is another similarity between Peter and the Starcatchers and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: both are based on pre-existing stories. Percy Jackson is based on mythology, which includes countless tales of all the gods that have been twisted and changed through generations of repetition. It’s difficult to remain loyal to such varying myths that have already been interpreted and reinterpreted so many times and in so many different ways. The story of Peter Pan is much younger and has a specific source. I love the novel by J.M.Barrie and find it hard to completely accept the way that Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson have claimed Peter Pan and his world as their own and almost audaciously invented a story of origin that conflicts with Barrie’s own novel. I feel much the same as I do when I book I like gets made into a movie that doesn’t fit my interpretation.
Peter and the Starcatchers was a fun, youthful adventure and its simplistic narration often gave way to moments of lovely description. Peter did not offer the same cleverness or whimsy as Barrie’s Peter Pan or the same pull as Percy Jackson & the Olympians but it was a quick, entertaining read and I will very shortly begin the next in the series, Peter and the Shadow Thieves.