Have you ever wondered how Peter Pan came to fly or what adventures he had before meeting Wendy? Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson explore these in Peter and the Star Catchers, the first installment in a series taking place before the events of Peter Pan.
Peter and four other orphans from St. Norbert’s Home for Wayward Boys are forced to board the Never Land, a shady ship, on their way to service in Rundoon. As the claimed eldest of the boys and the best spitter, Peter is their leader. At first, all he is concerned with is getting off the boat before it sets sail. He narrowly misses a beating and time in the brig when Molly, a passenger on the Never Land, prevents him from trying to escape during castoff. Peter and the boys are under the strict command of cruel first mate Slade.
Sickened at the thought of eating the broth wriggling with maggots brought to them once a day, the boys are eager for something else to eat. While Peter is rummaging one night for food alone, he finds a guarded room in the hold. He slips past the sleeping guard to find a canvas wrapped trunk. Any thought of investigating the trunk is put on hold when a rat floats overhead. Stunned, Peter is driven out of the room by Molly, who was also night wandering, before they can be caught in the wrong place.
As the voyage continues, Peter repeatedly tries to discover what is in the trunk, especially after hearing one of the Never Land sailors discussing it. After a number of arguments and encounters, Molly reveals what she knows of the trunk’s treasure–a substance known as starstuff. A whole order of people strive to protect the world from the amount of power starstuff can convey; that group is known as the Starcatchers. Molly’s father is one and Molly is in training herself. The trunk should be on the Wasp with her father and not on the Never Land at all. Meanwhile, the vile Black Stache and his ship the Sea Devil are out to track down the “greatest treasure to ever sail the seas.” The Sea Devil is the fastest vessel on the water and he is determined to get the trunk when he does not even know what is in it.
This book is filled with magic and adventure. Porpoises serve as message barriers, children (and a crocodile) fly, and a shipwreck on a hostile island keep this story moving along. Young readers will enjoy Peter’s narrow escapes from danger and his tendency to plunge ahead. I appreciated Peter’s recognition of the consequences of what befalls him as he tries to keep the trunk from falling into the hands of the pirates. This Peter is more responsible than his classical equivalent, but he is no less fun.
I listened to the audio version of this book, which is narrated by the incomparable Jim Dale. I was in need of a new read to listen to while commuting and picked this because of the narrator. Then the story unveiled and I was ‘hooked’ to the point that I brought the audiobook inside to finish listening to at one am. I have since started listening to the second installment.