THE ISLAND OF
REIMAGINING THE STORY OF
PETER & WENDY
Genre: Middle Grade / Fairy Tale / Fantasy
Publisher: Luna y Miel Publishing
Date of Publication: November 9, 2013
Number of Pages: 188
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Peter is still the boy who doesn’t grow up. Wendy is a girl who had to grow up too soon. And Wendy’s brother, Michael, has autism and a connection to The Island of Lost Children, a book for readers 8-12 and any fan of Peter Pan. When Peter leaves his island home, it’s to search for pick-up soccer games and mock sword fights. Wendy spends her evenings looking after her two brothers—sometimes bratty JJ as well as Michael—while her parents work nights. In the midst of several unusual events including the disappearance of her classmate, Lily, at odds with her adoptive mother, Wendy doesn’t realize that Peter’s pirate nemesis is keeping an eye on her. Everything changes for Wendy and her family when a peculiar fairy named Bellatresse helps Peter find the girl whose stories he once listened to outside her bedroom window.
With its quirky humor and occasionally touching moments, The Island of Lost Children is about children creating their own stories, families, and communities, all while swashbuckling, navigating mystical rivers, riding child-made roller coasters, and, of course, sailing high through the open skies.
There are so many great things about this book. Where to begin? First off, I LOVE reimaginings. Even when they’re not entirely successful, I still appreciate the creativity needed to see a different angle of such well-loved and well-known stories. Up until now, the only reimagining of Peter Pan that I’m familiar with, if you can call it that, is the movie Hook. So please excuse that some of the comparisons that I make are more with that movie than the original text; which I am ashamed to say that I don’t remember in great detail.
The cover is beautiful and the style of it gave me the impression that maybe the ethnicities of the characters would be played with. I don’t know if it’s the cocoa color of Peter’s skin and the dark hair, or maybe even just the style of the artwork that gave me that idea. As if to answer my unspoken question, the opening scene features a family praising their son Miguel as he plays soccer.
This is where I get confused for the first time. I knew that Wendy has two brothers, Michael and John. So I thought for a few pages that Miguel was Wendy’s brother, so there would be a Juan and whatever the Spanish equivalent of Wendy, right? Oops, I outed myself for stereotyping. Miguel is not Michael. The ethnicity of the family is ambiguous. I was a little let down by that, but the other types of diversity to be revealed made up for it.
The Darlings are a more realistic family in this version. The parents are quarreling over money and careers (hey, that’s sort of what happened in Hook, too), Wendy is having to play mom to her two younger brothers because their parents work all the time, and Michael has a cognitive disability. Also, poor Nana runs away when Mr. Darling tries to take her to an animal shelter. These Darling children have more reasons to want to run to Neverland than the originals, that’s for sure.
I don’t want to ruin the story but I will share that how Captain Hook enters the story is an interesting choice. His target for revenge didn’t make much sense to me though, and when everything gets more or less resolved, I don’t understand why someone isn’t arrested or interrogated at least. I guess because this is supposed to be a children’s story? Okay, I’ll chill.
I like the added dimensions to Lily (although I wonder if people would prefer she had stayed Native American), and not to mention the number of girls in Neverland! It always bothered me that Tiger Lily and Tink seemed to be the only girls in the original. Well, mermaids too if you count them (I didn’t). Batchelor topped Hook with that addition. However, the invisible feast and rollercoasters sounded a lot like Hook. Unless that stuff was in the original, too, and I just forgot. My apologies if they are.
I really liked the tender moments between Wendy and Michael, and how Michael had his peaceful spot in Neverland. I imagine this could open up dialogue about being sensitive to individual needs. Also, finding joy and hope in milestones reached. I closed this book feeling like I understood Wendy and Michael. Sadly, JJ fell by the wayside. Typical middle child, I guess.
What are my favorite moments? I think that Batchelor pokes fun at the Tinkerbell character, Bellatresse, by emphasizing her erratic behavior and thinking. Peter and Trudy pretty much say that the fairy does things for no apparent reason and that they’re not sure whether she really likes them or not. Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe she’s just supposed to be bipolar. Or all the sugar just made her cray cray.
And Peter thinking he’ll miss Wendy because she’s like a sister? Pffft. Let’s not let our reimaginations run away now.
Kim Batchelor writes books for children and adults, stories both real and fantastical, foreign and domestic. She has been published in the Texas Observer, The Best of Friday Flash, and local literary journal, Contexas. She teaches creative writing to incarcerated women and lives in Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas, with a spouse, two dogs, and way too many cats. One of her prized possessions is a busted tambourine given to her by Eddie Vedder. Okay, he tossed it to her in a dark stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, but the real story is never as interesting as the one she makes up.
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