Friday, September 21, 2007

Peter Pan in Scarlet

Read Peter Pan in Scarlet and you will be reassured that the realm of imagination is alive and well-despite the onslaught of TV, videos, and computer games that is poised to zap creativity from the next generation. This book, that will be enjoyed as a read-aloud at home or in the classroom, pulls readers into Neverland in a manner that is rivaled only by Peter Pan's own power to imagine food for his hungry compatriots, or to banish them into "Nowhereland". The reader has an "ah ha!" moment towards the end of the book when Peter's valet-turned-nemesis Ravello croons to Peter, "How willingly you allow me to comb the imagination out of your hair." A warning to all of us.

I first saw this book when Tracy Adams and her husband Josh, owners of Adams Literary were excitedly looking at the cover design at the 2006 SCBWI-Carolinas conference. They had a right to be excited about their client, Geraldine McCaughrean's new book. As they pointed out, the cover does pop-out, but the title's real meaning is revealed about two-thirds of the way through the book. I was hooked on the book when I was invited to read the first few pages at Covenant Day's "Readers are Leaders" event last spring. Although I enjoyed listening to this on CD, it is worth checking the book out of the library or buying your own copy—the illustrations by Scott Fischer in front of every chapter are terrific.

Used in the classroom, the book can be a treasure chest (sorry, I can't help my own allusions!) of characterization, setting, imaginative language, and personification. Consider this description of the sea:

  • Even the ocean felt the surge of excitement—TREASURE!—for it fairly rushed into the bay. The tide came in much faster than it does on unremarkable days. It refloated the Jolly Roger and spun her ground so that her bowsprit pointed out to sea—en garde!

Having just heard a great talk on symbols in literature by Mark Johnston at the EMRYS/SCBWI conference, I was very aware of such truisms as this comment by Ravello, "If you put on another's clothes you become that man." The comments about treasure being whatever the League of Pan wanted the most, will spark great classroom discussions.

It is hard to pick, but one of my favorite lines in the entire book is this description of Wendy:

  • Deep in her child heart she was still a grown-up; just as in the heart of every grown-up there is a child.

I highly recommend this book for boys and girls of all ages and I guarantee that you'll close the book with a smile on your face. (Oxford University Press, 2006)

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