Monday, April 10, 2006

The Book Fair


The book fair came through my son's grade school last week. Book Fair week was always my favorite week of school. I devoured books like they were my only means of sustenence. And maybe they were. A new book, fresh off the presses, was like a rare jewel I had never seen and couldn't wait to lay my hands on. They were things to be touched and felt and absorbed, my tickets out of my ho-hum existence.
I wanted to be ten again, looking at all of the titles. I wanted to buy and read almost all of them. Today's covers and titles are so intriguing in ways that they weren't when I was in school. Charlie Bone and Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter and Julie Moon.
My son is in second grade, too young for the books I wanted. But I ended up with Peter and the Starcatchers anyway, which was of course "for him" when he gets old enough to read it. Maybe this summer, or next year.
I devoured it over the weekend. This prequel to Peter Pan is a wonderful romp by the unlikely duo of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It is long on action and wild characters, wonderful twists and turns, and funny bits here and there. It is also a nearly perfect bedtime reading novel, with short chapters and cliffhangers throughout.
We get to learn where Peter met Captain Hook, and where captain Hook met the Crocodile, and how TinkerBell came to be, why Peter never grows up and can fly... all wonderfully and plausibly spelled out for us. As Peter and his friends jump from adventure to adventure we are effortlessly sucked in, hooked, if you will.
While I certainly enjoyed it and recommend it, what struck me is that I kept viewing the book from an adult's eye, thinking what the kids would think. They'll like this bit, they'll find that funny, I wonder if they will get this bit. I was never really to hoist up my disbelief and just react to the book.
That could be because Peter and the Starcatchers is exactly the kind of book I wish I'd written. I want to give back to the world what was given to me: good escapist books for kids, particularly boys. I"m trying something in the vein of Three Investigators / Brains Benton / Danny Dunn meets some fantastical thing, but not really having much success. I read the book as a writer.
But at the end I found myself wishing I was ten again, so I could run outside with my wooden sword, playing Peter to some friends Black Stash. I could do that today, but a trip to the psychiatrist would probably be the end result.
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