The illustrations that capture the essence of Peter Pan

J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan: The Story of the Play by Eleanor GrahamEdward Ardizzone

It has been a bit of a woeful embarrassment that I’ve never actually read Peter Pan, even more so because I’ve been in possession of this gorgeous volume for 22 years and I found it in a Book Fair in Oxford’s Randolph Hotel when I had first moved to the city.

This is a book packed full of gorgeous, inspirational illustrations by the master of pen and ink illustrations that is Edward Ardizzone. It is not, of course, the words of J.M. Barrie, but that does not matter – it has the story of the play that we know and love.

Having now read the story, I have to say that it is both enchanting and problematic at the same time. The beginning of the book contains some of the finest ideas that there are in children’s fiction; the shadow being sewn back on, the second star to the right and straight on until morning, the playful, instinctive flight. And of course then there is the archipelago of islands and the pirates and lost boys that live there. But there are also problematic moments in it – the way that Wendy’s place is to care and sew and clean for her brother, the Lost Boys, and for Peter. And all of this distracts from the showdown with Captain Hook on the island.