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People around the world know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up, but not many know the story of his creator, J. M. Barrie. Barrie’s young childhood was marked by sorrow, but also held great adventure. His adult life and relationship with the Davies family brought about a second childhood that helped him to create his lasting triumph. Masterfully illustrated by Steve Adams and using Barrie’s own words, Jane Yolen tells the story of the author and the boys who ...
People around the world know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up, but not many know the story of his creator, J. M. Barrie. Barrie’s young childhood was marked by sorrow, but also held great adventure. His adult life and relationship with the Davies family brought about a second childhood that helped him to create his lasting triumph. Masterfully illustrated by Steve Adams and using Barrie’s own words, Jane Yolen tells the story of the author and the boys who changed his life.
A sturdy picture biography of J.M. Barrie shines light before and beyond the wild success of Peter Pan. The narrative captures Barrie's child persona through deftly chosen details: "Whenever his favorite magazine, Sunshine, didn't arrive on time, he would write stories himself. Up in the top floor of the house, he scribbled away." His mother's intense grief over the death of a favored older brother left six-year-old Jamie doubly bereft. The author disproves Barrie's characterization of an impoverished childhood, preferring her own scholarship to his romantic embroidery. She lists 13 titles as "a few of the many books" consulted, yet some quotations lack context for modern child readers. Barrie tells his young friends, "that the Peter Pan character was based on them. 'I always knew that I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame.' " Adams's distinctive acrylic-on-board pictures juxtapose full-page scenes from Barrie's life with facing spots that fancifully illustrate snippets from the books and plays. A bit opaque, yet handsome and useful. (selected works by Barrie, selected list of actresses that played Peter) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)
Posted June 30, 2012
Lost Boy: The Story of the Man Who Created Peter Pan by Jane Yolen follows James Matthew Barrie from his humble Scottish birth in 1860 through his death in 1937. His rise as a successful playwright and enduring fame are due in large part to his most beloved character Peter Pan. Jamie Barrie inherits his storytelling gift from his mother. He begins writing, acting out stories from the Bible and his favorite adventure books, and staging plays at a very young age. As an adult, he plays pirates, Indians, and fairies with the Llewelyn Davies boys in London’s Kensington Gardens. Those games and wild stories inspire his masterpiece, Peter Pan. This picture book, published 150 years after Barrie’s death, includes a selection of his published works and a list of famous actresses who have played Peter Pan.
Yolen masterfully weaves Barrie’s fiction with relevant biographical facts, including quotes from his plays and novels that capture the sentiment of the events she describes. Steve Adams’ acrylic-on-wood illustrations create an almost fairy-tale effect. Every page spread includes a striking, full-page illustration of Barrie’s life and a 2 ½-inch by 5-inch window into each quote from Barrie’s own writing. The result is an extraordinarily complementary pairing of text and art.
Yolen deals with the more difficult aspects of Barrie’s life in an honest and age-appropriate manner. These difficulties include the loss of his brother David as a child, Barrie’s troubled marriage, and the death of the Llewelyn Davies boys’ parents to cancer. As a result, this biography paints a very human picture of Barrie as an individual, yet celebrates his imagination in a way that is sure to inspire young readers’ own creativity and encourage them to explore and appreciate the actual writing of J.M. Barrie.
Laurie A. Gray
Reprinted from the Christian Library Journal (Vol. XVI, No. 3, June 2012); used with permission.