Thursday, 25 February 2016

Peter Pan (Classic #1)

This review contains spoilers.

The Darling children are tucked up in bed when Peter Pan bursts in to their nursery.  Peter and his mischievous fairy Tinker Bell entice Wendy and her brothers to fly away with them to a magical world called Neverland.  There you can swim with mermaids and play all day with the Lost Boys.  But you must watch out for pirates, especially Captain Hook.  And how do you find Neverland?  Second to the right and straight on till morning of course.

Rating: ★★

My first read for the 2016 Classics Challenge was Peter Pan by J.M Barrie.  I really want to combine the challenge with my goal to read more children's literature and Peter Pan was high up on my list. I'm already very familiar with the story, but I thought it was high time I read the original book, already pretty sure that I would love it.

I couldn't have been more disappointed!   I didn't love it at all.  I was expecting a light and fluffy adventure story with lots of magic and excitement; what I got was a very dark tale about some really horrible children.  I knew the Lost Boys were supposed to be a little rough around the edges but I wasn't expecting them to be quite so bloodthirsty!  The book is peppered throughout with graphic descriptions of death and violence that seemed inappropriate given the target audience.  I couldn't particularly get along with any of the characters - Wendy was annoying (though to be fair, she is in the film too), there's not a single likeable thing about Peter, and the rest of the characters just didn't really interest me.

Peter Pan was actually quite a disturbing read and generally left a bad taste in my mouth.  I didn't like the casual attitude to violence but bloodshed aside, there were lots of other things that troubled me about it - can we talk about the scene where Peter threatens to expose Tinkerbell in her underwear for refusing to guide Wendy home?  The narrator also cuts into the story a lot and I thought he was a very harsh and judgemental voice for a children's book - he makes a lot of quite nasty comments about children, and seemed particularly disgusted with women.  In fact, the whole book carries a very misogynistic message.

The writing was very disjointed and the constant interjections from the narrator made it quite a chore to read.  To me a lot of the language seemed like it might be quite difficult for younger readers and given this along with everything else, I'm not sure it's actually suitable for children.  It has all the elements of a fairytale but there's nothing nice about it.

Overall, not a very positive start to my Classics Challenge.  Hopefully I'll have better luck with the next one!  Have you read Peter Pan?  A lot of people seem to see something in it that I didn't - I'd love to know your thoughts!

Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Fox and The Star

For as long as Fox could remember, his only friend had been Star, who lit the forest paths each night. But then one night Star was not there, and Fox had to face the forest all alone.

Rating: ★★★

I loved everything about The Fox and The Star.  If you know me, you will know that I'm a sucker for a pretty cover and this has to be one of the most beautifully designed books I've ever seen.  It just feels really special with its navy cloth bound cover, and inside is even better. First and foremost a picture book, each of the 64 pages is printed on lovely, thick paper and beautifully illustrated by the author.  Her art is reason enough to give this a read.  Absolutely gorgeous!

The story is lovely too, a simple but sweet fable about not giving up and having the courage to go out looking for your light.  I have seen this described as 'a John Lewis advert in book form' and I think this was intended to be a negative comment, but for me it's the perfect way to describe this book!  As a John Lewis advert is typically able to move you in approximately 30 seconds, Coralie Bickford-Smith manages to make you care about Fox and his quest to find Star with very few words and it has the same heartwarming quality to it.  

The moral might be lost on younger children but I think all ages would appreciate the story.  The illustrations also bring an interactive element to it - for example, on some pages the words are placed among the pictures in a kind of trail for the reader to follow and whilst the little fox features on most pages you sometimes have to look a little harder to find him.  I can see this being great for parent child reading and it's definitely one to be treasured - but maybe not given to children who haven't yet learned how to take care of books!