Young Peter is one of a group of orphans being led aboard a decrepit old ship called the Never Land. They are on their way to be servants to a despotic king across the ocean, whether they want to or not. Meanwhile, two old sailors are sent to a warehouse to pick up a trunk to bring aboard the ship. When the canvas cover shifts to the side, one of the sailors is flabbergasted when all the pain in his weary old body suddenly vanishes, and he hears the sound of bells.
Peter can tell by the sailor's behavior when he brings it aboard that there is something odd about the old trunk, and when mysterious events occur near it during their sea voyage (one involves a floating rat), he becomes determined to discover the trunk's secrets. On board he meets a very nice girl named Molly Aster. Her father is sailing on a different ship, the Wasp, which also carries a special trunk in its cargo. A third ship, The Sea Devil, crewed by pirates, is in hot pursuit of the Wasp. Black Stache, the formidable pirate captain, is delightfully diabolical, and Mr. Smee, his first mate, is hilariously inept.
If the names of some of these characters seem suspiciously familiar to you, that is because this rollicking seafaring adventure is a prequel to, of course, Peter Pan. It is obvious that Barry and Pearson had a wonderful time telling this story, which not only serves to explain many things from Barrie's Peter Pan, but is packed full of all kinds of fun and exciting elements: talking dolphins, mermaids, magical lockets, shipwrecks, jungle adventures, and more. I particularly enjoyed their characterization of Peter, which has a depth that made me come to care about him, as well as the developing relationship between Peter and Molly.
I did feel that the trunk-as-MacGuffin device became a bit tiresome after a while - where's the trunk, who has the trunk, they have the trunk, we have the trunk, where's the trunk? Ack! I have to say, though, that my girls (7yo and 9yo) did not have any problem with that aspect of the book. We listened to this in the car, and they were riveted from beginning to end. I had to laugh, too, at how long it took them to realize that Peter was Peter Pan! I guess when you aren't old enough to have experienced that many books, such things are still surprising (unlike for the rest of us jaded adults). Jim Dale's narration was, as always, masterful - his storytelling, as well as the different voices of the characters he uses, paints a vivid picture of the book so that it almost feels as though I've seen it on film! We are all looking forward to Peter's further adventures, and we'll definitely be listening to Jim Dale read them.
Books in the Starcatchers series:
1. Peter and the Starcatchers
2. Peter and the Shadow Thieves
3. Peter and the Secret of Rundoon
Peter and the Starcatchers (# 1 in the Starcatchers series) by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson; narrated by Jim Dale (Brilliance Audio, 2004)
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For the Love of Books