Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)




Thursday, June 9, 2011

MAKE THIS THE SUMMER YOU READ ALOUD J.M. Barrie's CLASSIC, "PETER PAN"

What comes to mind when you hear the name PETER PAN?
The animated Disney character from 1953?
The 1955 television broadcast version of the Broadway play, starring Mary Martin?
Or one of the many movies that have been made about J.M. Barrie's island of Neverland, and the boy who wouldn't grow up?

Hook  Peter Pan (Widescreen Edition)  Finding Neverland

Well, I hope your last thought isn't of the book - because that's the BEST choice!!
Maybe you can find an early edition, like this one - originally titled, PETER PAN AND WENDY -
.
or this classic illustrated edition (with the artwork of over 16 illustrators), compiled by Cooper Edens.

Peter Pan first appeared in a section of The Little White Bird, a 1902 novel written by J.M. Barrie, for adults.  The stage play called Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, debuted in 1904.  In 1911, it was adapted and expanded into Barrie’s novel, originally called Peter and Wendy and later simply Peter Pan. It follows the adventures of the Darling children as they are taken to the island of Neverland by the mischievous and boastful eternal youth who can fly: Peter Pan. There, they encounter fairies, Indians, mermaids and Peter Pan’s arch foe, Captain Hook.

This story is delightful for children and adults alike. Throughout the book, the omniscient narrator interjects many humorous asides and explanations to the reader - apparently Barrie's attempt to remind us  adults, who surely have lost touch with our childhood imaginations, about the inborn behavior of children. But I think he also wants to admonish children to appreciate their carefree youth while they have it. Young children may not fully grasp the meaning of what is discussed throughout the novel, but they will love the adventures of Peter, Wendy, John and Michael.   My own daughter became a fan of the story as an eighth grader when she read the illustrated edition (mentioned above) for the first time. And my sister told me my nine-year-old nephew, Peter, cried because the adventure was over when they finished reading Peter Pan aloud as a family last year.

To introduce you to the beauty and wit of Barrie's brilliant writing (and inspire you to read this imaginative story aloud with your children),  I'm sharing the opening paragraph...

Chapter 1
"PETER BREAKS THROUGH"
All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, "Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!" This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.


A prevalent theme in this story is about the responsibility of growing up. Childhood is portrayed as carefree and self-centered.  I'm always astonished by J.M. Barrie's insight and style in communicating not only the magic and innocence of childhood, but also the poignant essence of motherhood...

Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children's minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can't) you would see your own mother doing this and you would find it very interesting to watch. It's quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on Earth you picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek, as if it were a nice kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out the prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.


In the end, Peter Pan is the only one who doesn't grow up.  Wendy's wistful sigh, "Oh if only I could go with you," to her daughter Jane as she is about to fly away with Peter, reminds us of the brevity of childhood.  But he'll come back to the nursery again and again, to find a mother from a new generation who will tell him stories and help with the spring cleaning time in Neverland.


You can read the story of Peter Pan HERE online, at Project Gutenberg

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