Books — Peter And The Starcatchers

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad pirate story

By Lisa Parsons [lparsons@hippopress.com]

Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Disney Editions of Hyperion Books for Children, 2004, 451 pages.


Memo to Disney:

Please please please please please please don’t make it into a movie.

You’re going to make it into a movie, aren’t you? It’s a prequel to Peter Pan, written by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry—who lives, what, like three feet from Disney World?—and published by “Disney Editions” of Hyperion Books. And as I was reading it, I could see every scene unfolding as if it were a Disney movie of the very best kind.

Which is precisely why you should please please please NOT make it into a movie.

For once, please, let the imagination be all mine.

I know you won’t make as many billions that way, but do you really need them? Could you not be satisfied with a few millions from the book sales? Let, for once, modern children know that a book is a great adventure in its own right, and not merely a blueprint.

Because what you have here is a great adventure. It’s got everything such a book should have: humor, imagination, action, exotic locales. Flying rats, talking porpoises, street-smart orphans and the world’s most incompetent captain. A pirate ship with a humongous bikini top for a sail, and a trunk full of magical “starstuff” that everyone wants.

You’re going to make it into a movie, aren’t you?

But it works so well as a novel. Peter, an orphan at St. Norbert’s Home for Wayward Boys, discovers magical treasure on the ship that’s taking him and his friends to become slaves of King Zarboff. The magical treasure turns out to be “starstuff,” which is kind of like opium, or like petrochemicals, or whatever freaky new molecule the good and bad guys are always racing for in comics and James Bond flicks. (See? Movies.) Like a drug, it allures and addicts. Like power, it corrupts. Like nuclear fission, it can be used for good or evil. Like all of the above, it has mysterious properties.

A trunk full of starstuff sits on the ship called the Never Land, guarded by a girl named Molly, chased by one Captain Stache (short for Black Moustache) and his underling, Smee. Captain Stache, well, you’ll recognize him, even though he has both hands at this point.

There is swordfighting at sea and nighttime stealth, there are secret spy codes and thrills and chills and a big old brassiere for a sail on a pirate ship. And a captain who runs around bonking off the gunwales and shouting nonsense like “AVAST THE MAIN MIZZEN!”

It’s fast-paced, it’s funny, it jumps off the page and makes a movie in my head. I don’t want to see a Pixar rat in the air; I want to imagine a real rat really flying. I don’t want to see John Goodman bouncing off the gunwales; I want to imagine my own idiot captain. So if you do make a movie, could you at least not plaster every inch of commercial space with tie-ins?

Readers, better hurry just in case. Anyway this one is worth a separate trip to the bookstore.

Peter and the Starcatchers is a fabulous story to read under the covers at night with a flashlight after your mom has turned the lights out.

- Lisa Parsons

 
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