Thursday, March 14, 2013

Peter and Wendy by J.M. Berrie (Children's Literature Novel)

 Berrie, J. M. Peter and Wendy. Charlie Scribner’s Sons. 1911. Illustrated by F. D. Bedford. (267 pages, and 122 pages for the online version)
     This classic tale is a story about Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up and never wanted to grow up. He brings Wendy and her two younger brothers to Neverland, an island full of fairies, pirates, animals, and more. Neverland is a dreamland – a place for adventure, but the lost boys on this island still long for the structure and nurturing that a mother can give. Wendy is commissioned for the task, and does well until the day when she and her brothers return home with the lost boys in tow. Only Peter Pan refuses to stay and grow up, although he visits an aging Wendy and her descendants.
     Peter and Wendy is a story with some vocabulary and content that may offend modern sensibilities. The portrayal and name of “redskins” seems a bit unflattering, and at one point the fairies are described as “some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy” (p. 104) Some modern readers may even be put off by the strict gender role assignment that the author engages in throughout the book. However, none of these things bother me personally. If there is value in the story, one can see past the controversial sections and even use them to foster healthy discussion. “Children have the strangest adventures without being troubled by them.” (p.14).

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