A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan is a celebration of childhood and imagination. Magical Peter takes three English siblings across the sky to where he lives in Neverland to have adventures among pirates, fairies, mermaids, wild animals, Lost Boys, and a Native American tribe. However, young readers will benefit from some at-home or classroom discussion about the story's outdated sexist and racist stereotypes. As Wendy plays "mother" to the boys in the novel, she takes on a very old-fashioned motherly role, similar to her own mother's. Native Americans in the book are referred to as "redskins," and once as "Piccaninny warriors." There's a little bit of real violence in the story, and much more threatened violence. Native Americans smoke a peace pipe. Captain Hook smokes cigars. Peter Pan has been adapted for stage, TV, and film, including the wonderful but similarly problematic 1953 Disney version.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In J.M. Barrie's PETER PAN, Peter flies through the window of the Darling nursery in search of his shadow. He meets Wendy, Michael, and John, teaches them to fly, and leads them to the home of the Lost Boys in Neverland so that Wendy can be all of the boys' new mother. There, among pirates, Native Americans, mermaids, and wild animals, the children have exciting adventures. However, Captain Hook and his band of pirates are determined to wipe out the Lost Boys, especially the cocky Peter Pan. Hook plans to kidnap the boys and Wendy, poison Peter, and make the boys walk the plank while Wendy watches. It will take equal parts magic and courage for the Darling children to make their escape and find their way back home to London.
Is it any good?
This classic fantasy is full of thrilling adventures that spark children's imaginations, but some of the attitudes and language in J.M. Barrie's masterpiece are dated and offensive. Peter Pan is richly complex, inspiring moments of humor, pity, sadness, excitement, and fear. Another fascinating aspect of this novel is the fact that the author occasionally breaks the "fourth wall" by inserting himself into the story. For example, he writes of trying to decide whether to let Mrs. Darling know in a dream that her children are on their way home. This aspect of the book -- along with the archaic ideas and language about gender roles and indigenous people -- make the novel a great subject for home or classroom discussion, as well as an exciting and magical childhood fantasy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Peter Pan sparks the imagination. Do you wish you could fly? Do you wish you could have adventures like the Darling children and fight with pirates?
Have you seen the Disney movie of Peter Pan? How are the book and the movie different from each other?
What do you think about the way Native Americans are shown and discussed in the book?
In this book, what does it mean to be a mother? Would you like to have a mother like Wendy or Mrs. Darling?
- Author: J.M. Barrie
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Pirates
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperFestival
- Publication date: December 27, 1904
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: January 8, 2021
Our editors recommend
For kids who love classic stories and fairy tales
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.