Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Peter Pan

Author: J.M. Barrie

Published: 1906 (Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens), 1911 (Peter and Wendy)

Number of Pages: 287

Rating: 5/5

In Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, J.M. Barrie first created Peter Pan as a baby, living a wild and secret life with birds and fairies in the middle of London. Later Barrie let this remarkable child grow a little older and he became the boy-hero of Neverland, making his first appearance, with Wendy, Captain Hook, and the Lost Boys, in Peter and Wendy. The Peter Pan stories were Barrie’s only works for children but, as their persistent popularity shows, their themes of imaginative escape continue to charm even those who long ago left Neverland. This is the first edition to include both texts in one volume and the first to a present an extensively annotated text for Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. [From Goodreads]


I’m youth, I’m joy, I’m a little bird that has broken out of its egg.


Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve written one of these! This summer is off to a great start, and returning to blogging will improve it even more. Anyway, without further ado, my review of Peter Pan

The edition I read includes Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens as well as the better-known Peter and Wendy (the story Disney uses for its animated movie adaptation). I am glad I read both, as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens is an entirely different story than the one most of us know. In this case, Peter is a week-old baby, never to grow any older, and practically stuck in Kensington Gardens. The story follows little Peter through some odd adventures and, though short, gives one a nice taste of J.M. Barrie’s clever sweetness and undeniably masterful use of the English language.

I found Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens to be a curious story, but still the sort that crawls right into my heart and makes a nice little nest there. Small lines that might escape a reader’s notice are what made me love it, such as, “To have faith is to have wings.” and “David tells me that fairies never say ‘We feel happy’: what they say is, ‘We feel dancey’.”

J.M. Barrie’s style reminded me of L.M. Montgomery’s because it’s evident he appreciates the seemingly innocuous things in life that, when compiled, are actually what make life lovely.

Peter and Wendy is the Peter Pan story we are all familiar with. The rambunctious and irresistible little boy draws three children to him and flies away with them to Neverland, where young Wendy becomes the “mother” of a bunch of Lost Boys who have, until then, been in dire need of mothering (though some might deny it). Peter and Wendy was originally a play (J.M. Barrie was an immensely popular playwright), but he later recreated it in book form. I could not at all tell that it was not originally written as a novel. The prose is immaculate. I recommend reading the book first, if you are not accustomed to reading scripts.

Admittedly, I hardly remembered the Disney story before I read the book, so I cannot tell you how similar the two are. However, I can assure you that Peter and Wendy is a darling book, full of adventure and mischief, that is bound to win you over, and is also the perfect story to read to your children.

One of my favorite parts of the book was Wendy’s home-making skills. How cute it was, to watch a little girl play house! And the reactions of the boys, without mothers for as long as they can remember, was adorable.

After reading Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, a reader knows Peter’s backstory and how he came to be without a mother. This knowledge made his reaction to Wendy even more heart-wrenching, and is one reason I recommend you read both.

Whether you find the relationships between characters interesting or not, Peter and Wendy‘s adventure is sure to entertain. The surprisingly complex Captain Hook is a doozy and rather hard to understand, but the men on his crew are the quintessential bumbling pirates. Peter’s cleverness and “cockiness” (possibly the word most frequently used to describe him in the book) are hilarious. And did I mention Tink? What a twerp. I love her.

Whatever you’re looking for, you’re bound to find it in Peter Pan. Tenderness, adventure, comedy, and especially cockiness – it’s all here, written in a way that is fantastically fun to read. Next time you’re looking for something altogether unique, pick up Peter Pan.

2 Commentsto “Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie; Review”

  1. Yep. It's a much richer tale than many would ever suspect. Barrie has such a way of mixing the darkness with light, whimsy with woe. Subtle humor that packs a whallop. And a deep psychological undertone that can really make one question what's important in life. 🙂

    I recommend two other books. First, a novel that's based on Barrie's own idea for more Pan adventure. Unlike the 'Starcatcher' novels or even the 'official' sequel, it remains faithful. Click!

    And the other is a great 'What if?' that sails the story far from the original but stays anchored in the core essence of Barrie's tale/themes. But this one ISN'T for kids! Click!

    Thanks for spreading Peter Pan love!

  2. Ah Miss Rex, you have returned, with a brilliantly brilliant review.

    Peter Pan is a character that has always eluded me – it's the film that always sticks out for me amongst Disney films, in that I have never watched it. I have wanted to – I know the characters, and had the adaptation of the Disney film, but could I find it? Could I heck.

    (This is the second time, I've heard mention of Peter Pan today, I am currently awaiting the third.)

    Did you ever read 'The Starcatchers' books? (I didn't read them, I had to search Wikipedia for the name.) They seem to be a more recent incarnation of the little fiend.

    Either way, your review has inspired me to seek out these characters – I will find Peter Pan and read of his adventures, whether he likes it or not.

    (And was 'Peter and Wendy is a darling book' meant to be a pun, or am I reading into things?)

    Great to have you back, I look forward to your future posts.

    (EDIT: Just discovered that Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson was published today.

    Will you be reading it?

    I don't know why I'm mentioning this, but I thought there is the third time I've heard Peter Pan mentioned, not that you needed to know.)

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