PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
An oldie (first published in 2004) but a goodie!
I really enjoyed this retelling of the origin story of Peter Pan. Strangely enough, I have still yet to read the actual Peter Pan by Barrie. But I think this was a great retelling, despite not knowing the true original tale.
This book tells about the origins of not only Peter, but also Captain Hook, the crocodile, the mermaids, and more. I really liked how the authors gave everything from the tale a kind of backstory. I especially felt bad for the crocodile, despite it being a huge human-eating monster of a croc. I also enjoyed how the authors treated the Natives of the island - while the white people in the book did call them "savages," the authors use the use of the word as a learning tool to show the Natives' perspectives of what "savagery" truly is. That being said, I mention that specifically because that word is used (it is common in the time period of the book), so if you are uncomfortable with that, be warned.
The book starts out with Peter and some fellow orphan boys being put aboard a ship to be sent... somewhere. The ship is old and rickety and looks like it could fall apart at any moment. The captain is a drunk, the crew are rough, and the first mate, Slank, is horribly mean. As the ship travels to its destination, lots of things happen. For one, Peter meets Molly. No, not Wendy. Molly. Another thing that happens is the discovery of a mysterious chest aboard. That chest is the start of all the problems and adventures that Peter gets to be a part of.
I can't really give much else away because a lot of it would be spoilery, but just know that there is a lot going on in this book.
Peter: Peter isn't really Peter Pan in this book. He's just Peter, an orphan who doesn't know anything about his last name, parents, or even his age. He is the leader of the orphan boys introduced in the beginning and therefore feels a lot of responsibility for them. You don't usually think of Peter Pan as responsible, and really he isn't (he is just a kid), but I liked this added aspect of Peter feeling the weight of the other boys on his shoulders. Other than his somewhat responsibleness, he is also rather impatient and hot-headed. He jumps into action and very rarely thinks things through. But when he does come up with a plan, it is very well thought out. Obviously, he is clever as well.
Molly: Molly Aster is the daughter of a well-to-do family. She has a governess and everything. However, she is still on the rickety ship that Peter and the boys are on, for reasons that are explained later in the book. She is practical, level-headed, and very responsible. Throughout the book, Molly is constantly trying to keep Peter on track and get him to slow down and think. That being said, she is also loyal and risks her life several times for Peter. He returns the favor of course, but I like how it wasn't just Peter saving Molly all the time - in fact, I think Molly saved Peter more than he saved her.
This book is very fast-paced, especially once they get to the island. That's where it loses a star. I understand that this is a middle-grade book and they are more go-go-go, but this book just took off and never really slowed to give the reader room to breathe. Of course, it didn't help that the narrator of the book (which I was listening along to as I read) was a very fast-talking person. With the combination of a very action-oriented plot and a quick reader, this book seemed even faster.
While I did feel a little fatigued after reading this, and the ending was a bit bittersweet where I usually prefer happy endings, I really did like this book. I loved learning about the different origins of different people, things, and creatures. I think this book is definitely a solid four stars and stands on its own, despite this being the first in a series.