'Saving Neverland' is a triumphant return to the world second star to the right and straight on 'til morning. Retaining the same magic and charm you would expect from J.M. Barrie, while giving the adventures a much needed modern twist, Abi Elphinstone has truly excelled. She's the perfect author to bring Peter Pan back for today's readers. And illustrations by Geraldine Rodriguez really captivate too!
Martha Pennydrop is ten, and desperate to grow up. But growing up is a tricky business. It means turning your back on imagination, fun and magic, because those were the things that led to the Terrible Day when something awful nearly happened to Martha's younger brother, Scruff, which would have been All Her Fault. But when Martha and Scruff discover a drawer full of mysterious gold dust in the bedroom of their new house - along with a window that's seemingly impossible to close - it's the start of an incredible adventure to a magical world: Neverland!
Reading this is like returning to being a child with all the awe and wonder for when you first encountered Peter Pan. Of course, the original text comes to mind but it also evokes the animations and films which form part of our cultural capital; the same magic follows through. Yet, Abi Elphinstone is a brave writer to take some of the more problematic troupes of Peter Pan and re-imagine them for modern readers. This is not necessarily a complete reinvention or completely subversive; it is instead a joyful evolution that makes sense while also saying something about the power of storytelling and the imagination in making all worlds just a little bit better.
Martha, of course, is the true hero here and she's just so plucky, courageous and sensitive too. What is so great is that she makes up for previous narrative ills; namely, that girls cannot do adventures as well as boys can. In fact, Martha proves she may just be more of a hero than Peter Pan. Alongside this, there is the change from having Lost Boys to Lost Kids. Abi Elphinstone has made a much more inclusive Neverland and it's all the better for it. Arguably, this makes the magic that much more potent and charming. I loved how Neverland has been iced over, and how the story progresses balancing the old and the new, warming our hearts in the process. There are twists and turns and huge feats of the imagination. And at its core, this is a story about 'growing sideways' - what a great message for everyone!
I really loved this new story set in Neverland, and with all the other incarnations of Peter Pan, this tale of Martha, Scruff and the Lost Kids needs its own big film adaptation. Fantastic!