Review: Peter And The Starcatchers

By Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Pearson had just finished reading J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan" to his young daughter, Paige, at which time the girl looked up at her father and asked precociously, "but, Dad, how did Peter meet Captain Hook in the first place?"

"It was such an obvious question, my jaw dropped. I couldn't believe I'd never thought of it," Pearson recalled. And, because Pearson clearly wasn't coming up with enough good book ideas on his own, he decided to write the work, dragging Barry along for the ride. Since neither of the authors is familiar with writing for the under-15 crowd, one flinches a touch at the idea - Barry is best known for his weekly column in the Miami Herald (unfortunately, currently on hiatus) and such works as Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys and Dave Barry turns 50. Pearson is best known for more thriller fare such as The Body of David Hayes and The First Victim, the sort of novels you see the middle-aged woman across from you at the airport gate reading. Adult authors trying to be children's authors can often come across a bit patronizing in their storytelling, which doesn't take long to grate on the nerves of any reader, young or old.

Fortunately, Barry and Pearson know good storytelling (if you doubt Barry's skills, pick up a copy of Big Trouble or Tricky Business), and Starcatchers springs Peter Pan's world to life. The story follows Peter from his days as a young orphan all the way through to his adventures learning how to fly in Neverland. Starcatchers ably recreates the magic of Barrie's Neverland and gives the young reader a splendid in-depth look at Peter Pan's world. In fact, that's the books failing. As Barry and Pearson try to weave in the stories of Captain Hook, Smee, the crocodile, the savages, the mermaids, Tinkerbell, and the Lost Boys, they begin to lose their hold on the narrative pull of the book. In the end, Starcatchers ends up having to play catch-up, trying to jam in all the various elements at once in order to create a happy ending that answers all of our questions about Pan's life. But, as George Lucas is learning as he cranks out empty Star Wars prequels, we didn't come to find out the answers. We came for the story. It's a shame it got lost along the way.

Rating: 3 Stars - It believes in fairies, but you can bet your tinkerbells it ain't gonna start clapping to save any.