Peter Pan

by J. M. Barrie

Hardcover, 2014



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BOOKS (2014), 200 pages


The adventures of the three Darling children in Never-Never Land with Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up.


Original publication date


Physical description

200 p.

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
I can't believe that I had never read Peter Pan until now. It's one of those tales you grow up knowing — we had the Disney cartoon just about memorized — but somehow the original story and I never crossed paths. Oh, what I've been missing! I picked it up on a whim last night and was quickly
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enthralled with J. M. Barrie's iconic characters and their madcap adventures in Neverland. If you, like me, have relied on retellings and adaptations for your knowledge of Pan, you must remedy this at once. The original story is well worth reading.

Barrie's nostalgia for childhood is evident but never cloying, because he understands its brutality as well as its sweetness. Children are very selfish beings, but the difference between them and us is that they don't know it yet. Growing up is a bit of a tragedy because that is when you find it out. But outside of Neverland, it's inevitable. It's sad at the end that "the bearded man who doesn't know any story to tell his children was once John." Sometimes Barrie's style verges on the heartlessness he sees in children, as when he writes that "Mrs. Darling was now dead and forgotten." No false sentimentality here! Roald Dahl has the same touch in his books for children.

This is what has made Peter Pan immortal, I think: Barrie gives him the same edge. He is "gay and innocent and heartless," and throughout the story Barrie is always reminding us how Peter sees things differently. He has no pity for Tiger Lily when she is about to be drowned; what angers Peter is that it was two against one. It's his indefatigable sense of fair play. Peter forgets people after he kills them (oh yes, people are killed in Neverland and sometimes you "stumble over the body"); he doesn't even remember Captain Hook a few years later, or Tinker Bell after she dies. He has no pity on his Lost Boys when they displease him, and he is not always honest or dependable. He is the most conceited boy there ever was — and the most charming. Given all this, it's hard to understand why he is so lovable, but he is.

Neverland is a lot darker than I thought it would be. For all its innocence, it is full of adult ideas in embryo. This makes sense, as every adult was once a child. One thing I noticed was that every female in Neverland — the mermaids, Tiger Lily, Tinker Bell — is jealous of Wendy because of Peter. Peter, of course, doesn't understand this in the least and it's doubtful if they do either. But the whole idea of adult jealousy and possession is very much present.

And I was fascinated by Hook's musings on good form as a front we put on for the world. We adults try so hard to have it — which, of course, means we haven't got it. Barrie writes, "Good form! However much he [Hook] may have degenerated, he still knew that this is all that really matters... Most disquieting reflection of all, was it not bad form to think about good form?" It seems that good form means correct manners and dress, but sometimes Barrie uses it in a way that sounds more like a moral compass, not just one's outward presentation. Hook is obsessed with good form, but either he misunderstands it or it really is just nice manners divorced from meaning.

Barrie also explores the theme of abandonment. Much is made of the fact that the Darling children leave their nursery without a qualm because they are secure in their parents' love and know that the window will always be left open for them. But what about children who aren't so sure of their parents' affection? Peter hates Wendy's story that details her mother's faithful love for her children, because his own mother forgot him. When he flew back to visit her, the window was shut and a new baby had taken his place. This pains him and it seems to be the one thing he hasn't forgotten in all his reckless years of eternal childhood. The effects of abandonment — both abandoning and being abandoned — never leave.

Barrie also plays a bit on the idea of a father's role in the family, using Mr. Darling's insecurities as a comic device but also with poignancy. Mr. Darling is always concerned about what the neighbors think, and is hypocritical when it comes to telling the children to take their nasty medicine. But Barrie develops Mr. Darling a bit, and though he hesitates about adopting the six Lost Boys (because no one asked his permission!), he does endure the embarrassment of living in the kennel until his children come home. Mr. Darling is "quite a simple man; indeed he might have passed for a boy again if he had been able to take his baldness off; but he had also a noble sense of justice, and a lion courage to do what seemed right to him." For all his failings, this is high praise indeed.

Barrie takes great delight in pretending to scorn mothers in general and Mrs. Darling in particular, because of how their children take advantage of their unselfish maternal love. But really he admires it, and is fascinated by the mystique of motherhood. Barrie says, "You see, the woman [Mrs. Darling] had no proper spirit. I had meant to say extraordinarily nice things about her; but I despise her, and not one of them will I say now... Now that we look at her closely and remember the gaiety of her in the old days, all gone now just because she lost her babes, I find I won't be able to say nasty things about her after all. If she was too fond of her rubbishy children, she couldn't help it." It would seem that Barrie remembers his own mother with mixed feelings.

There have been countless adaptations of Peter Pan; in fact, it started as a stage play (the recent film on Barrie's life, Finding Neverland, shows this). I've long been a fan of the animated Disney Peter Pan and Spielberg's Hook. Disney softened the edges of Peter's heartlessness a bit, though it's still there. I think of the part when he is laughing while Wendy is in danger of being drowned by the mermaids. As for Hook, I never knew how many little things in that film are nods to the original story (the name Liza, Peter's character crawling into the kennel like Mr. Darling, the little tent set up in the nursery, some of Peter's dialogue, the focus on "good form," some of the lyrics of Maggie's song, etc.). It makes me appreciate the film even more! I can't say I am really a fan of the 2005 film version Peter Pan. There was something so oddly Freudian and sexualized about it. I didn't care for it when we saw it in theaters — parts even made me uncomfortable — and when we watched it again that feeling only intensified. I'm not sure why it strikes me so unpleasantly, but it does.

Peter Pan is just so full of delightful nonsense. From the very first chapter when the Darlings are totting up their expenses to see if they would be able to keep their newborn daughter ("at last Wendy just got through, with mumps reduced to twelve six, and the two kinds of measles treated as one"), to the hilarious descriptions of family life ("'I won't go to bed,' he [Michael] shouted, like one who still believed that he had the last word on the subject"), I knew I would love this book. C. S. Lewis writes, "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest" — and as I grow older I realize how true this is. I've missed out on the original Peter Pan for all these years, but the window is still left open. If I can't fly out, at least I can look at the winking stars and maybe catch a bit of what they are saying.

Funny, bittersweet, and perceptive — no wonder this is a much-beloved classic.
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LibraryThing member saeriellyn
Having been a fan of Peter all my life since listening to the Mary Martin musical soundtrack at a tender age, I am surprised that it took me so long to actually read the original, unabridged story. It is, as an actor from the most recent film version put it, "The most famous book nobody's ever
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I find the book incredible...besides sheer entertainment value and a magical quality that will keep the kids mesmerized, it is packed with odd psychological symbolism that many adults will recognize as the author's venting of his own childhood traumas. A brief look into Barrie's bio makes a lot of the stranger things in Pan far more understandable, if undoubtedly tragic.

Barrie does have a rather flippant way of engaging the reader, teasing and goading much the same way as his mischeivous, conscience-less hero. But he also writes with poetic beauty, filling his characters with rich and quirky descriptive elements such as Peter being somehow very like the unnattainable kiss Mrs. Darling keeps in the right-hand corner of her mouth (which only he is then able to get).

The book does betray the social conventions of its time in Wendy's attitude toward motherhood (which is only problematic if you are a raving feminist) and a bit more uncomfortably in its depiction of the Indian culture on Neverland. These elements need not detract from the story if one is careful to put them in context for its young readers.

The recent film adaptation, although closest of all the films in its adherence to character, is misleading in its interpretation of the story being about the sexual awakening of adolescence. The hidden theme of the book is overwhelmingly the innocence of childhood - innocence in the sense not of inherent goodness, but in inherent un-self-consciousness. Peter is a symbol of eternal childhood, not human at all, and as such is incapable of reciprocating or even understanding Wendy's budding romantic notions. He is selfish, but not self-aware. Ultimately, he is the lament of one man who lost his own mother too soon, and consequently never grew up himself. Be assured, however, that all this goes right over the heads of young readers, and even adults will only catch it by reading critically and analytically.

Brilliant literature that deserves its place as a long-beloved children's classic
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LibraryThing member Ceolach
The JM Barrie original bears only a passing resemblance to the 1953 Disney movie. Yes, all the characters are there, but what happens in the novel is much darker and deeper than the Disney-fied version. It is truly an examination of the inner child that refuses to grow up. We see both the good and
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the evil that dwells within the heart of man.
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LibraryThing member justabookreader
My mom once told me that as a child I wouldn’t sleep until she read me Peter Pan. It usually took three or four reads since I was a child who didn’t care much for sleep. My mom had the story memorized and said if she turned the page too early, I would stop her to let her know she wasn’t done
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with the page yet. Apparently, I also had the story memorized. :-) The version I was read while tucked snuggly in bed was not this version but rather an illustrated book probably courtesy of Disney. Whatever version of the book I was read as a child, this one held true for me and every bit of it was fantastic.

Peter Pan is a young boy who simply refuses to grow up. He lives in Neverland with the Lost Boys, the Piccaninny tribe, the mermaids, pirates, a ticking crocodile, and of course, Hook. Peter is the captain of the boys and they do whatever he tells them to. One night, he meets Wendy and her two brothers, Michael and John, and takes them all away to Neverland to share in his adventures.

One thing I noticed about the book was the violence. There’s open talk of killing Hook, Peter is not shy about telling anyone that he cut off his hand, and that he plans to finish him. While no one says what happens to the Lost Boys that get too old, one doesn’t have to look very far for the reason for their disappearance. Peter is extraordinarily arrogant (Maybe that’s not the right word for describing a child; cocky?) and nothing happens without his say. Even when danger lurks, not one of the Lost Boys questions his authority even when they are told to kill the pirates. That astounded me and made me happy to see that Barrie didn’t dumb this story down. Bad things happen in life and he brought it down to a level that was understandable for a child. As an adult, I obviously have a different view but was interested in the way he portrayed Peter and the fact that even though he was just a boy, he was a boy with responsibilities for others even if he didn’t think much about it in those terms. Well, at least until he brought in Wendy to be the mother which solved some of his responsibility issues.

Wendy is playing the mother of the Lost Boys and Peter is somewhat the father as Wendy does say to him often how wonderful their boys are. It’s slightly odd but I overlooked my wiggly feeling about it. The boys so badly want someone to love them, and when Wendy comes along, they cling to her like no one else. It’s almost sad how starved they are for love and attention. She delights in telling them stories of her parents and tests them frequently so her brothers will remember.

Most of all, this story is all whimsy. It’s beautifully told with an almost poetic quality to it at times. It can be harsh and it can be so simple in the way it describes the games the children play. It’s both amusing and sad reading it as an adult.

I did a few Google searches to find out more about Barrie and it turns out the idea for Peter Pan is based on a brother who died in childhood. In his mother’s eyes, his brother always remained 14 years old, the age at which he died. That made me so very sad but if this was the way he finally managed to immortalize his brother, it’s a wonderful tribute.

I wondered how I would feel about this story as an adult and I can honestly say that for me, it will always be a favorite. It’s magical and I’m glad I got around to reading it again. I had a whole new perspective as an adult and it gave me a greater appreciation for the story. I do wonder what my mom would think of it now though…
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Because Peter Pan is such a well loved, well (over?) produced story, everyone knows the basic plot: three kids unhappy with the way their father has treated the family dog run away with an orphan boy to his Neverland (not to be confused with Michael's Never Land Ranch). Peter and his Lost Boys are
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looking for a mother and they think they have such a figure in Wendy, one of the Darling children. It's a magical adventure full of danger in the form of pirates, "redskins" and a ticking crocodile. Even the fairies and mermaids are not to be trusted.

Upon rereading Peter Pan I was surprised by how slow the story moved in certain sections. Because of the glossed-over, dumbed-down, glitzed-up theater/movie/storybook versions that have popped up over the years I had forgotten Barrie's original 1911 language and long since deleted details. It was hard to picture reading this aloud to a young child. Peter Pan seemed slightly evil (being described as cunning and sly), Tink seemed downright dirty as she responded to her own jealousy over Wendy (gleefully leading Wendy to her death). True to fairy tale form, it does have a happy ending. Sort of.
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LibraryThing member girlwithafacee
The sentences were not always clear in meaning, but given the age of the story it is understandable. Much to my surprise, I knew the story very well before reading. Disney (where I knew the story from) did not detour completely from the original story as usual. A very nice, quick read.
LibraryThing member BrynDahlquis
Peter Pan surprised me in a lot of ways. For one thing, it's actually a very disturbing book. When Wendy realizes that John and Michael are forgetting their past life, I get scared right along with her. There's also a surprising amount of bloodshed going on, though nothing too graphic.

It's written
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beautifully. There are so many places where the narrator's snide comments startle me into laughter or make me pause and think for a few moments.

It's a wonderful adventure that's a bit surreal and a bit tragic and a bit scary, but beautiful and lovely and fun too.
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LibraryThing member librisissimo
Substance: Peter Pan is not so charming in this book, with a disturbing psychological neurosis driving his refusal to grow up. Barrie's cynical interpolations in the novel version of his play give it a much darker and meaner aspect. Not a book I would give to children. A subversive fairy tale in
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the sense used by Jack Zipes about the 17th-18thc. French literary tales.
Style: Deceptively borrows the style of Victorian children's literature, with snide asides to keep adults sniggering. See Hilaire Beloc's "Matilda Who Told LIes and Was Burned to Death" and P.L. Travers' "Mary Poppins" series.
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LibraryThing member tapestry100
This was my first reading of J. M. Barrie's classic tale of the boy who would never grow up, Peter Pan. I'm pretty sure everyone is familiar with the story of Peter Pan, so I'll just highlight my thoughts about the book. Having always been steeped in the Disney version of the story, I was a little
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surprised by the darker and more violent elements of the original story, but found that they added an element to the story that really illustrates how much of a child Peter Pan truly is. I found myself becoming increasingly irritated with his actions, and those are truly of a child who has lived his whole life by his own rules and without the guidance of parental supervision. Peter is selfish, arrogant, unconcerned for the safety of others and wholly immature, yet innocent in every way. I also found Tinker Bell so much more amusing this time around. Overall, it was a fun read and didn't leave me disappointed at all.
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LibraryThing member sbpagac
A true classic of a boy who teaches Wendy, Michael, and John to fly. They venture to Neverland, the land of the lost boys who never grew up. They encounter Captain Hook, Tinkerbell, and a ticking crocodile. A great read if you wanna get lost in another world, a land where anything is possible,
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especially for kids. The strength of this book are the strong characters and setting.
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LibraryThing member millsslave
Peter Pan is a childhood favorite. I used to watch the movie so many times my dad had to make about five copies so I wouldn't ruin the original tape. I love the idea of Neverland and the Lost Boys. I think a part of everyone never truly wishes to grow up and take on adult responsibilites and Peter
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Pan represents this desire. One difference between the Disney animation and the book is the part involving the thimble and the kiss. Peter Pan misnames the two and believes a kiss is a thimble and visa versa.I think Peter Pan is a childhood favorite and classic for all.
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LibraryThing member AmberTheHuman
Well, that was racist. I'd been meaning to read this for a long time - and now I have finally done it! It's a little sadder than I expected. Barrie occasionally reminds you of the very sad parents. I'd rather that the time Wendy, John and Michael were gone for were a long time in their world,
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almost no time in reality. But I can't have everything the way I want it.
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LibraryThing member Doris.Biegler
This is a book about a young girl Wendy who meets a shadow friend and becomes great friends. Peter a lost boy takes Wendy back to Never Land where they have a wild adventure with faries and pirates. Peter never wants to grow old and Wendy has grown up before her time.

This is a classic story that I
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have always enjoyed, I haven't found a version yet that disapointed me.

Children and pretend to fly and think of there happy thoughts, Share those happy thoughts with the class. Also the children could use flash lights and explore with shadows.
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LibraryThing member nmhale
A children's classic, much beloved by thousands of kids who have never even read the book (thanks to Disney and Tinkerbell). I finally got around to reading it and discovered that, unsurprisingly, the story was much more complex than the cartoon movie version might lead you to believe. We learn a
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lot more about the Darling family, including the mother and father who are just caricatures in the Disney version, and the theme of not wanting to grow up is fleshed out as Barrie examines the pros and cons of staying forever young. Peter Pan is at once the light-hearted and mischievous imp we all love, but he is also tragic in his eternal youth. Did you ever wonder what happened to the Lost Boys? Or what the family reunion was like when Wendy and her brothers finally return home? Or what became of Wendy as she inevitably grew older? Read the original to find out.

The illustrations in this particular edition are gorgeous, one reason I sprang the extra money for a hardcover book. They capture the charm and wonder of Neverland, the whimsy of the story. A wonderful story on both fronts, and well deserving of being called a classic.

*On a side note, I believe that the recent live action film version does a much better job of capturing the original spirit of the story.
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LibraryThing member tapestry100
This was my first reading of J. M. Barrie's classic tale of the boy who would never grow up, Peter Pan. I'm pretty sure everyone is familiar with the story of Peter Pan, so I'll just highlight my thoughts about the book. Having always been steeped in the Disney version of the story, I was a little
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surprised by the darker and more violent elements of the original story, but found that they added an element to the story that really illustrates how much of a child Peter Pan truly is. I found myself becoming increasingly irritated with his actions, and those are truly of a child who has lived his whole life by his own rules and without the guidance of parental supervision. Peter is selfish, arrogant, unconcerned for the safety of others and wholly immature, yet innocent in every way. I also found Tinker Bell so much more amusing this time around. Overall, it was a fun read and didn't leave me disappointed at all.

The Vess illustrations in this edition are beautifully rendered and capture the essence and spirit of the boy who won't grow up perfectly.
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LibraryThing member KendraRenee
A good old-fashioned fairy tale, perfect to help one "get away" from real life. And since Barrie's writing is so much more fanciful and creative than any movie could imitate, too, reading the book is more than worth it even if you know the story through and through. I'd like to have this on my
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shelf once I have kids...
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LibraryThing member Cecrow
Peter Pan is a tough sell these days, given the complexity of its language next to today's novels targetting the same age group. I tried to read it when I was a kid and set it aside, feeling vaguely lost and deterred; the Disney rendition was considerably easier to absorb. Now I tried again, as a
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bedtime story for my 7-yr-old son. What the author's driving at still went over our heads at times, but my son held on through every chapter and anticipated the next, even though I'm fairly sure he only fully absorbed half of them. Wendy's thrilling to the idea of children to care for, the source of Tinkerbell's jealousy and other story developments and narrator asides remind me of today's animated features where adult-oriented jokes are inserted to keep the grown-ups entertained. If only there weren't so much overwriting.

One aspect that especially hasn't aged well is the "redskins", with their peculiar mix of native American and African American stereotypes of the novel's period. But my son didn't know those connections and I think viewed them as a race of entirely fantastical invention. The story remains a fun adventure for children, with its introducing the ability to fly (who doesn't want to do that?), a dog for a nanny, and a means of transport into one's own imagination where there's a new adventure every day with just the right mix of derring-do and danger, threats of blood-spilling and silly humour. We loved the medicine-taking episode, the captured shadow, the ticking crocodile, and many other fun ingredients. Of course we clapped for Tinkerbell, and the ending is magic for both kids and adults. I'm glad I returned to it, and he'll have fond memories.
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LibraryThing member ElOsoBlanco
Barrie's novel is worth a look if the Peter Pan you know is the highly adulterated flying boy of Disney fame. It's also worth a look if you've always considered Peter Pan to be a story aimed only at children. While the whimsy of Neverland and flying children does lend itself well to a "Children's
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Lit" tag, the comments of the story's narrator lends a subtext to the novel which should not be missed, and the roles being played by Pan, Wendy, and Hook are also worth looking at if you'd like to glean a deeper meaning from a "kiddie novel." What Barrie has done is create two beautifully separate realms, or snapshots, of childhood and adulthood, and he allows us to venture into and through them with Wendy and the Lost Boys. Definitely worth a read, for young and old. I highly recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member KatieLovett
When I began reading Peter Pan, I was stunned at how much children's literature has changed since this book was written. I actually felt uncomfortable reading it to my kids. The author seems very much convinced that children should be seen and not heard, and the book says things like, "Children are
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such naughty creatures; they are selfish and only care for themselves. They should be thankful that adults are willing to love them." Well, that's paraphrasing, but these are the sorts of ideas the book puts forth. However, I don't think this book should be forgotten. It's a treasure of classic literature because it truly is an enchanting and wonderful tale. I recommend it for those who wish to expand their knowledge of classic literature, but not for a parent searching for a read-aloud bedtime tale.
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LibraryThing member MissLizzy
I read this book somewhat late in life, simply because I thought it was a children's book. Not that I am against reading children's literature, but I really thought that I was too old for this book. Man, was I wrong! This book is actually very adult. Peter's life, how he will always be a child, and
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will always be alone, made me cry. And the illustrations in this particular edition were gorgeous.
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LibraryThing member anodos99
This was a lot of fun to read. Much better and very different than the Disney version or any of the other Hollywood attempts, predictably.
LibraryThing member hoosgracie
The story of the boy who never grows up. Having listened to Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson's wonderful prequels to Peter Pan (Peter and the Star Catchers and Peter and the Shadow Theives), I wanted to listen to the original - I never had. Well, I really didn't like it. The reader was good, but Peter
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is a little brat. I think Disney improved on Peter.
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LibraryThing member slightlyfan
No wonder this book is a classic. It is a brilliant story about a boy who never grew up.

It is a tiny bit hard to read and a little confusing at parts, but if you read it through you will be glad you did.
LibraryThing member suavisvinum
still one of my favorite light reads. great book for anyone :D
LibraryThing member svnopa
I obviously knew the story but never actually read the J.M. Barrie original until recently and was pleasantly surprised by what a great read it was. I think we tend to think of classic stories as known, boring and old-fashioned not realizing that there are reasons they became classics. The writing,
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as well as the story, of Peter Pan are magical weaving the reader into the story with the narration that is lyrical, witty and engaging. Tim Curry's reading on the audiobook is a treat. He plays the roles of narrator and characters well drawing listeners in to the magical story.
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