Review by C.J. Bunce
“Proud and insolent youth, prepare to meet thy doom.”
J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Wendy, Captain Hook, Tinker Bell, The Lost Boys, and Neverland are coming to the small screen next month. Peter Pan & Wendy, the title of Barrie’s 1911 novel, is also the title of a new live-action film coming directly to streaming on Disney+. So what better time to dive into the original story? That’s exactly what you get with MinaLima’s edition of Peter Pan. MinaLima is the design studio combining the imaginations of two artists that gained notoriety for creating the entire ten-year run of graphic art and graphic props for the Harry Potter film series (discussed in the books The Archive of Magic, The Art of Harry Potter, and The Art of Harry Potter pocket edition). British design artist Miraphora Mina and Brazilian design artist Eduardo Lima also provided imagery for The Golden Compass, Sweeney Todd, and The Imitation Game. As with MinaLima’s illustrated edition of eight other classics (see links to our borg reviews below), MinaLima again offers up their artistry and design to make a new definitive version of a classic–a storybook that could be a new favorite for the next generation of readers. If you haven’t read the original story of Peter Pan, what may surprise you is how modern author Barrie was more than a century ago.
Spirited Away, The Goonies, The Princess Bride, Labyrinth, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Chronicles of Narnia, even 101 Dalmatians–many later stories owe a debt to the fantastic voyage in Peter Pan. Barrie borrows much from Robert Louis Stevenson–Captain Hook being some kind of kin to his Long John Silver–and some imagery and ideas of adventure appear to seep in from both Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
The Darling family has a fantastic dog named Nana that watches over the children. Wendy is their eldest and only daughter. Barrie’s story is structured something like readers of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby would be familiar with: Peter is like Gatsby, this unusual force that dazzles and piques the interests of everyone he comes into contact with. Unlike Alice or Dorothy, Barrie’s protagonist Wendy is unique. She stands in for her mother among her younger brothers, and her very presence is celebrated by those she meets in Neverland, a different spin on Oz and Wonderland. Where other characters in classic children’s fantasy literature shun parents and parenting, Wendy embraces it.
The villain Captain Hook is more Jack Sparrow than Long John Silver. His introduction couldn’t be more cinematic, with that hook for his hand digging into the side of his ship.
Love the Ugnaughts’ catchphrase in The Mandalorian, “I have spoken”? That was Peter Pan’s signature line first. And the predecessor to upvoting or voting someone off the island (or killing Robin off in the comic book pages) can be traced back to Peter Pan in the form of clapping your hands.
For anyone who has been misguided with the idea that children’s books don’t contain vocabulary more advanced than that found in the slate of modern adult bestsellers, you need only look to Barrie’s prose. Frequently he offers asides in the form of brackets to explain or expand on character actions, thoughts, and word choice. The handling of race is worthy of note: Barrie’s world is something that can be compared to Mark Twain’s writings, so it would be wise to provide some context and discussion to actual modern kid readers, even advanced kids, to limit the perpetuation of some embedded stereotypes and word choices.
Who is the greatest, most marvelous character of Peter Pan? That’s easy. It’s the modern (tiny) girl Tinker Bell. Forget everything you know from the Disney animated adaptation. Tink’s traits are a combination of every surly, lonely, anxious, angsty, adolescent girl. And she does not hold back, “You’re an ass!” being her own catchphrase.
MinaLima has done it again with their design and inserts. These include a great map of Skull Rock island, vintage-style newspaper articles, a crocodile clock, a mini paper kite, and other odds and ends that evoke elements of Neverland.
A beautiful edition of Barrie’s classic Peter Pan tales, from MinaLima and Harper Design, this is another keepsake storybook perfect for young to middle grade girls and boys and adult readers. Order Peter Pan now here at Amazon. And don’t miss the other books in the MinaLima library reviewed here at borg: The Secret Garden here, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz here, The Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales here, Snow White and Other Grimms Fairy Tales here, plus The Jungle Book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Beauty and the Beast, and Pinocchio.
Look for Peter Pan & Wendy streaming on Disney+ beginning on April 28, 2023.