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One Woman’s View

Celebrating Peter’s centennial

Contributing writer

James M. Barrie’s novel, Peter Pan, was first published in 1911. The play had appeared a few years earlier. I have celebrated this centennial year by reading the book for the first time. I know. It is nearly unbelievable that someone has been around for nearly 72 years without reading Peter Pan, but I plead guilty.

The blurb on the back of the paperback I read called it “arguably the best children’s book ever written.” OK, I argue. Although it is delightful in many ways, I can think of a number of children’s books I have enjoyed more — Anne of Green Gables, Caddie Woodlawn, the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the Narnia chronicles to name a few.

I had a few doubts as to whether Peter Pan was a suitable hero. In effect, he kidnapped the Darling children and brainwashed them.

Of course, the quality of fantasy prevents these events from being frightening to young readers. If discussed with a responsible adult, the story could be used as a warning against the gullible acceptance of strangers, but that might destroy the story’s attraction.

Barrie characterizes children as gay or happy, innocent, and heartless. I’m not sure how someone could be innocent and heartless at the same time. I admit that to the very young child, the world revolves around himself or herself.

However, with proper upbringing I do not believe this total self-absorption lasts long. I have often observed much caring, compassionate behavior from children as young as 4 — definitely the opposite of heartless. Perhaps he is trying to make the point that children tend to take the sacrifices of parents for granted. I can’t argue with that, and I believe it often applies even to adult offspring.

Anyway, I enjoyed my flight into Neverland. I have a habit of browsing in the children’s section at the public library and often check out books and read them. Nonfiction children’s books have the advantage of telling me what I want to know without telling me a lot more than I care to know.

Often I re-read some of the books I loved in my childhood, but I also like to explore what is being written for children today. Recently I enjoyed a couple of the books from “The Buddy Files” written from the point of view of a dog that solves mysteries. The dog endeared himself to this glutton by describing every food mentioned as “my favorite food.”

Thanks to the staff at the public library. They do not even wrap my checkouts from the children’s section in a plain brown wrapper. I’m sure I’ll be reading children’s books for the rest of my life, and Peter Pan will go on delighting children of all ages for another century.

Last modified April 6, 2011

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