Peter Pan

peter pan

Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie. Originally published in 1902. 151 pages.

This book was assigned to our fourth grader, who is a very strong reader, but the language and some of the themes have proven to be a bit more advanced than 4th and 5th grade. She is still reading through the book, reading the chapters as assigned by her teacher, but I forged ahead and finished the book. Firstly because I found it thoroughly enjoyable, but also because it will be easier to work through the narrations with our student having familiarized myself with the story.

The interesting thing about this book is that it is far less innocent and far more intense than the Disney-tized version of Peter Pan most of us were exposed to from chidlhood. This one is more violent, with more mature themes. It does contain a mixture of adventure and whimsy missing from the Peter Pan I was famliar with, however.

This quote from Peter, however, is the common thread we are all familiar with, and was one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“I’m youth, I’m joy, I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.”
The characters were all engaging and entertaining, and even the villains, such as the pirate Smee, confidante and first mate to the fearsome yet ironically cultured Captain Hook, were the types that stick with you long after you close the last page.
Peter, the ultimate bad boy crew leader, was the character you rooted for because you were supposed to, but was not without less than endearing qualities. His Lost Boys were wonderfully innocent and faithful to him, while all of the female characters surrounding Peter were written with a coquettishness that was completely lost on Peter Pan. Nevertheless, Peter seemed to know exactly when and how to exploit the affection his charges and the ladies (Tinker Bell, Tiger Lily, and Wendy) felt for him.
At the end of it all is the great and violent showdown between Peter and his Lost Boys and Hook and his pirates. Peter is the ultimate victor, while Wendy, John and Michael wrapped up their adventure, and headed home to their griefstricken parents. Parents who had kept a window open in anticipation of their return one day. J.M. Barrie had an interesting way of expressing what the narrator considered the heartlessness of the three children who flew away on an indefinite adventure, leaving their parents behind to fret:
Off we skip like the most heartless things in the world, which is what children are, but so attractive; and we have an entirely selfish time, and then when we have need of special attention we nobly return for it, confident that we shall be rewarded instead of smacked.
I found that quite funny, second only to Wendy’s exasperation with being the mother to the Lost Boys (Peter was their “father”):
Oh dear, I am sure I sometimes think spinsters are to be envied!
She says this several times, and although I heartily disagree with her, it is funny nonetheless.
There is actually plenty to be said about this book, but I recommend that you take the time to read it yourself as it is enjoyable on many levels. It is a perfect example of this quote from C.S. Lewis which I have always loved:
No book is worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally -and often more- worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.
Grade: A
Age range for this book,which is the original, unabridged version I’d put at 12+. I chose that not because of reading ability, but because of the violent content, adult language (nothing overly offensive, but still), and general level of maturity required to appreciate the themes and subtexts of the book.


15 thoughts on “Peter Pan

  1. hearthie says:

    Well, that was fun. 🙂 I think I’m going to disagree and set the age range down to elementary ages – even quite young. This isn’t a book meant to be read on paper, it’s meant to be read aloud, in bits. (PS quite a lot of older books for young people are full of violence etc – have you read the original few Oz books?)

    thanks for the push. 🙂

    PS The author does characterize fairies correctly. 10 points.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elspeth says:

    I agree that reading aloud in bits is the best strategy for this book and in that format, yes, appropriate for younger readers. Even then though, I would put it at age 10.

    When my 9-year-old had trouble reading it on her own (language and terms confused her), I did some research and found that the independent reading level was set at 7th grade and I agreed. So I put it at age 12.

    Then, of course, there was the issue of my girl’s alarm at Peter “thinning out” the boys if they showed signs of growing up, LOL.

    So all of that went into my final conclusion.


  3. hearthie says:

    Never to disagree with someone’s estimate of what their kids should read – but oh my, the interesting conversation we could have here. I made 17yo read Kidnapped (which according to one book list, was a 6th grade level book) when he was 12, and that was extremely violent and mature in situation. So, how do we bridge that gap? Do we try?


  4. Elspeth says:

    I don’t”t know, and I am actually pleased that another person a) actually read the book (squee!) and 2) offered an alternate view. I relish that and was what I had in mind when I started this blog. So thank you, my friend!

    As to bridging the gaps, I have concluded that it may not need to be bridged. Awareness of our children’s aptitudes and sensibilities is where we come in. And despite my placing a higher level on it, I still am reading it with our kid, and she is really enjoying it (now that she *gets* tone of the book).

    I also think that our older kids were assigned a couple of books in 9th grade PS that -despite the reading level being more than conquerable- were best left for a more emotionally mature period.

    How did your then 12-year-old react to that particular book?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. hearthie says:

    Mr. Stoic was fine. We more struggled with the HUGE leap in reading level I tormented him with flipping from 5th grade in PS to 6th grade in Charter/HS and my idealistic notions of what he could handle. Had I mentioned I made him do that book in the original language? Oy. I am not a sane woman.

    (I did the literature the first couple of years, until I saw my weak spots – like, I just wanted you to read, learn the vocab, answer some questions, and write an essay… what, we have to learn about characterization? Dangit. Or, why I went back to a CS curriculum – I was missing things).

    I have a lot to say about this that is a bit complicated, so I am going to blog it back to you after I get 13yo off to her Monday classes.


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