Peter and Wendy

October 31, 2016
Peter and Wendy Book Cover Peter and Wendy
Peter Pan, #3
J. M. Barrie
Fairy Tale
May 11th, 2012

One magical night, the Darling children­­––Wendy, John, and Michael––are visited by two mischievous denizens of Neverland, an island of the imagination where pirates prowl the Mermaids’ Lagoon and fairies live so long as children believe in them. Peter Pan and his loyal, lightning-quick companion, Tinker Bell, have come for Peter’s shadow, captured the previous night by Nana, the children’s Newfoundland nanny. The pair leaves not just with the shadow, but with Wendy and her brothers, as well, whisking them away to Neverland to join the Lost Boys in their war against the evil Captain Hook.

J. M. Barrie created the character of Peter Pan to entertain a young family he regularly met in Kensington Gardens. Over the course of two novels and a play, he turned a whimsical idea into one of the most cherished literary characters of all time.

(via Goodreads)


We all know the story of Peter Pan. He’s the Boy-Who-Never-Grew-Up. He is as cocky as a rooster, and crows just the same. He flies, he is mischievous, he’s self-centered– but really he just wants to have fun. I picked up Peter and Wendy as part of my Kids Lit Book Club. While this is the 3rd book in the Peter Pan series* (*Word used loosely here), this is the book we have seen on stage and screen repeatedly. A truly enchanting tale to read, I am so glad I read this book.

You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.

Growing up, I knew Peter Pan as the red-headed boy from the Disney animated film first. Then as Mary Martin when I finally saw the musical. And lastly, as Robin Williams in Hook. Each of these films told the story of Peter in a different fashion, and after reading Peter and Wendy I can say the majority of all of these renditions are true to the book. peter-and-wendy-disney-2More renditions have been created since thing, and I’m certain more will still be created in the future. And yet, perhaps surprisingly, Peter and Wendy is the novelization of J.M. Barrie’s 1904 stage play, Peter Pan; of The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up.

Almost a collection of chronological short stories, Peter and Wendy tells the story of when the Darling children flew off to Neverland with Peter Pan. They spent quite a long time there (it is never disclosed in the novel) playing house, hunting with the Indians, playing outdoors, splashing in the lagoon, and hunting pirates. Narrated by J.M. Barrie himself, in a very forward and dramatic fashion, we learn about what could have happened to the children along with what did. We meet Tiger Lily and her tribe, Tootles and the Lost Boys, Tinkerbell, and of course, Captain Hook and his Pirates.

Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you sacrifice everything else for it.

The most fascinating character to me is (obviously) Peter himself. Peter is perpetually a child. He does whatever he wants to when he wants to.He has little regard for the feelings and needs of others, just like a proper child. peter-and-wendy-martinThis makes him come across as incredibly arrogant and cocky. Despite the joy and innocence of childhood, he also has a darker side to the reader. Peter doesn’t value life since he doesn’t comprehend it. Also, like a child, his memory is fairly limited– usually to what is in front of him. This means he forgets so much; adventures, people, stories, etc. Peter has no real strong ties to any people. This self-confidence and willingness to find fun in everything draws people to him. And yet they only get hurt by his inability to return their feelings or connections.

The story of Peter and Wendy is much more powerful when you better understand Peter’s origin as a character. You see, J.M. Barrie’s older brother died in an ice-skating accident the day before his 14th birthday. In Mrs. Barrie’s mind, David never ended up growing up. In fact, as a 6-year-old when his brother died, J. M. tried to assume David’s place. He wore his brother’s clothes and adopted his mannerisms. But, J.M. was never able to heal his mother’s heart. This scarred him forever.

To die will be an awfully big adventure.

J.M. Barrie grew up loving children. It’s said that he connected better to children than to adults because he never grew up either. He was close to a family with young boys, and when the parents passed away J.M. Barrie took guardianship of the children. When he died in 1937, the copyright of Peter Pan passed from his estate to the Royal Children’s Hospital in London. To this day, they still benefit from the royalties.

Despite fascinating character development (a weakness for me), I loved the idea of this book and what it represents more than the content itself. peter-and-wendy-hookPartially this is due to Barrie’s sometimes tedious narration. Partially due to the fact that I already knew everything that was going to happen. Partially due to the sad fact that I have grown up.

Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.

The sensibilities of this story come from the later 1800’s. Wendy just wants to play house as the mother all the time. She adores staying up late and alone darning socks and pestering the children. She has no other aspirations. Tiger Lily and her tribe are referred to as “Redskins” and speak with “ugha”s and “me wanna”s. And finally, the boys are actively trying to kill the pirates. This book was more violent than I expected. I wanted to let go of my modern sensibilities in order to better enjoy the story, but I couldn’t. Sad Jackie.

In the end, this story is brimming with youthful innocence and happiness. If you haven’t read it, I certainly recommend it. Just be prepared to accept the fact that it’s a bit dated in sensibilities. If you can let that go, it really is a fantastic world to get lost in.

3 stars

What do you think?

  • Have you read any of the Peter Pan books? What do you think of them?
  • Have you seen any of the other adaptions of Peter Pan? How do they compare?
  • Who is your favorite character? Why?


  • Books, Vertigo and Tea October 31, 2016 at 11:49 am

    The Wendy Darling series by Colleen Oaks is great if you feel like a good Peter Pan retelling Awesome review!

    • Jackie B October 31, 2016 at 3:38 pm

      Oooh, thanks for the recommendation, Danielle! I love reading retellings shortly after reading the original story, as well. I find that I catch the nuances better. Perfect timing.

  • Read Diverse Books October 31, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    As I’ve grown older, it has become more difficult for me to simply accept a books anquated ideals/sensibilities. I’ve noticed this especially in the last couple of years. When I try to read books written before 20th century, my modern sensibilities as a reader take over and I find fault with a lot of things I find outdated. I can’t help it. There are exceptions, of course. 🙁 Perhaps when I’m older I will be able to read older books more objectively, but I can’t say that for sure.

    • Jackie B November 2, 2016 at 3:52 pm

      I can completely understand. For me, it depends on the book I’m reading. If I am completely enraptured with a novel I can certainly be more forgiving. For example, when I read The Woman Who Rides Like A Man, there was quite a bit of Noble Savage trope at play. But, I was so caught up in the world that I didn’t really notice until I reflected after reading the book.

      But, with Peter and Wendy it was really distracting. So distracting that I would have DNF’d this book if it wasn’t for it being such a Classic (and I was reading it for book club). I did have a lot of great discussion fodder, however.

      Are there any books in particular you have been affronted by? Mostly so I can avoid them. 😉

  • Anne November 1, 2016 at 7:16 am

    What a GREAT review! I loved the extra info you gave on J.M. Barrie! He sounds like a bit of a predecessor to Michael Jackson eh? Apart from the moonwalking and singing bit of course ;).
    I used to watch the cartoon on Saturday mornings as a kid and could not get enough of it, really. I’ve also read an original Peter Pan book, but am a bit confused to which one that was now. I believe it is the same as this one, though. I see I’ve given it three stars on Goodreads as well ;). Probably due to similar reasons as you. I remember the narration being a bit dull at times for sure, but maybe my expectations for action were too high after seeing all of the movies/series about it. The part of not wanting to grow up is still very much present in myself. I’m 35 and just can’t seem to grow up even if I try. The day fart jokes become non-funny to me is probably the day I give up on life or something.

    • Jackie B November 2, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      There seems to be a bit of Michael Jackson here, but history paints Barrie as substantially less creepy. Who knows whether he really was– but with the donation to the Royal Children’s Hospital, I’m going to lean on less creepy.

      The part of not wanting to grow up is something I *aspire* to. I can, sadly, relate more to Wendy and growing up sooner than everyone else. Reflecting on that, it was not a good life choice, but 13 year-old Jackie wasn’t into youth. I’ve developed a lot of very adult habits; hopefully Peter can help me embrace my inner child some more again! 🙂

      • Anne November 3, 2016 at 7:40 am

        I’m going for less creepy as well. Mostly also because I don’t want my Peter Pan experience to be ruined by the thought of it ;). Ah, I was way too mature for my age as well when I was little. But that all changed after I turned 20 or so. And still going strong when it comes to being childish. So you can do it too! 😉 Colouring books are a great way to tap into your inner child btw, if you haven’t tried them yet.

        • Jackie B November 3, 2016 at 4:36 pm

          Perhaps all I need is to refocus my efforts. Ice cream, coloring books… what else can I do to bring out my inner child? Fart jokes?

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom November 2, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    “The story of Peter and Wendy is much more powerful when you better understand Peter’s origin as a character. You see, J.M. Barrie’s older brother died in an ice-skating accident the day before his 14th birthday. In Mrs. Barrie’s mind, David never ended up growing up. In fact, as a 6-year-old when his brother died, J. M. tried to assume David’s place. He wore his brother’s clothes and adopted his mannerisms. But, J.M. was never able to heal his mother’s heart. This scarred him forever.”

    Thanks for sharing this info. I had no idea! Things are starting to make sense though…

    • Jackie B November 2, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      Oh yeah. And why there are so many stories with Peter in them, and how Barrie justified Peter’s existence, actions, and philosophies. Poor guy.

  • MyBookJacket November 9, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    I never knew that about the origin of Peter Pan! That’s so heartbreaking now that I think about it. Sigh. This was one of my favourites as a child but mainly for the magical whisking away and adventure aspects, now I’m going to have to reread it and see if I notice the connection now that I know it.

    • Jackie B November 11, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      It’s super heartbreaking. But I don’t think knowing the origin changed the escapism views I have for this book. It was still a great read! I hope that you get to keep your childhood wonder upon a re-read, Vicky. 🙂

Participate in the discussion!

%d bloggers like this: