Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth Book Poster Image
Exciting but violent -- not for sensitive kids.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This book's language will challenge readers -- and it will give them a lot to think about. See our "Families Can Talk About" section for some discussion ideas.

Positive Messages

Readers will have to consider what makes someone a villian.

Positive Role Models & Representations

James certainly doesn't act like a traditional role model here, but some may consider him to be sympathetic.  Readers will have to make their own judgment:  Are his actions only justified in his own mind?


Lots, and some of it pretty vicious and disturbing, though the only deaths come during a sea battle at the end. Human carcasses on a plague ship, whipping and beating of boys, poisonous spider bites, swordplay and fighting, a brutal game with lots of injuries, slaves are mistreated and tormented, James cuts the word Neverland into his arm, and he kills a sailor with a hook.


A couple of kisses, some obliquely sexual insults.


A few mild epithets, such as "bastard."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults and teens smoke and drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this story is about the making of a classic literary villain, so he behaves badly a lot of the time -- but because he's the hero, and meant to be sympathetic, his behavior becomes appealing. The brutality can be disturbing: human carcasses on a plague ship, whipping and beating, poisonous spider bites, swordplay and fighting, a brutal game with lots of injuries, mistreated and tormented slaves, a sailor killed with a hook. This also isn't for reluctant readers: Overflowing with British, specifically Etonian, slang, Latin names, and old-fashioned heroic repartee, it will be heavy going for some, who may need help to decipher it.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6 and 8-year-old Written bymimsigal November 22, 2008

A good read for older kids

My daughter was interested in this, as she loves all things Peter Pan. I read it in an afternoon (older readers will have no problem with it) and as an adult,... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byemmers December 14, 2009

Trying Times

because im a fan of all misunderstood villians like King Jas. Mathews i just had to read this book cause hes just an intereasting caracter hes evilness is cause... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008

Jolly Roger, this was great!

This was a book I loved. It kicked off right away with James going to Eton, and challenging a 'big boy'. This may raise a few red alerts. There is muc... Continue reading

What's the story?

James, the illegitimate son of a British lord, is sent to school at Eton. Subjected there to the institutionalized violent hazing that was peculiar to the schools for the British elite, he fights back in surprising ways that turn the school on its head and make him the hero of the underclassmen. Adept at sword-fighting and training poisonous spiders, and with an indomitable will coupled with a fierce intellect, he is soon called King Jas., and has made deadly enemies of the Eton Bloods, especially one Arthur Darling. His one friend is Roger Peter Davies, soon dubbed Jolly Roger. Together they embark on a series of triumphs and mad exploits, including dueling, kidnapping a sultana, stealing a ship, and assorted mayhem, that eventually gets them expelled from the school, whereupon they sign up on a sailing ship owned by James's father, only to discover that it is a slaver.

Is it any good?

Hart, screenwriter of the movie Hookhas outdone himself in creating a fascinating hero/villain who is as magnetic to the reader as he is to his schoolmates. Hart uses as a springboard an obscure short story by J. M. Barrie, combining it with hints laced throughout Peter Pan to create a thrilling story that fleshes out the evil pirate captain's early life. Barrie always saw Hook as an intriguing, tragic figure, and a reflection of himself.

Hart's dark and violent conception of Hook is truer to Barrie's original vision than it is to the humorously foppish popinjay caricature Americans have come to know, thanks to Disney and Cyril Ritchard. In the original 1904 stage play, Hook was so terrifying that children often had to be carried out of the theater screaming. It takes more to shock the worldly kids of today, brought up on violent movies and video games. But no one can accuse Hart of not trying. And sensitive kids may still need a guiding hook, er, hand.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about perspective. Captain Hook is traditionally a villain, but he's the hero here. What makes a "good" guy good and a "bad" guy bad? Does James come across as sympathetic here, or are his actions only justified in his own mind? How would you retell the story from a different point of view?

  • Think about all the different media that Peter Pan has spawned -- from stories and movies about Captain Hook to Web sites and games about Tinker Bell. Why do you think this story has endured? What makes something a classic?

Book details

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