Peter Pan

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Peter Pan Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Magical adventure has stereotypes, offensive language.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 15 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Readers will learn a little about middle-class English family life at the beginning of the 20th century. 

Positive Messages

In loving families, the window is always open.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The few female characters set the best examples. Wendy is kind, patient, and caring with Peter, her brothers, and the Lost Boys. Tinkerbell is loyal to Peter and saves his life. Tiger Lily is brave and loyal as well.

Violence & Scariness

Before the events in the story, Peter cut off Captain Hook's hand. Wendy is shot with an arrow and believed dead. Children are captured by pirates and told they must walk the plank. There's an attempted murder by poisoning.

Language

Tinkerbell calls Peter a "silly ass." Native Americans are repeatedly called "redskins," and at one point, Peter refers to them as "Piccaninny warriors."

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 However, young readers will benefit from some at-home or classroom discussion about the story's outdated sexist and racist stereotypes.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

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byhannahrw1991 February 7, 2020
Tinker Bell continues using the word "ass" when Peter "is being stupid," according to a parent review. Parents may think "orgy" is... Continue reading
Written byAnonymous July 1, 2018

Kids will enjoy it, but won't understand the dark undertones.

The only non-child friendly element of this novel is Tinker Bell's constant use of A-word when Peter is being stupid. Parents may misinterpret the word... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byPenPal17 May 28, 2020

Light, Whimsical Classic, Deeper than you Might Think

Peter Pan by J.M Barrie is a true classic. It's a bright, lighthearted fairytale about the wonders of childhood and the importance of growing up. Although... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byAce05 September 10, 2018

My Favorite Book- A Classic

I LOVED this book from the moment I first read it. I currently have four copies and have read it multiple times, however, you may have to explain a few "bi... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love classic stories and fairy tales

Themes & Topics

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