This book is an absolutely magical re-telling of the story of Tiger Lily from Peter Pan. The narrator is the fairy, Tinker Bell.
I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for J. M.Barrie’s masterwork. Who among us hasn’t wanted to go to a place where you could remain young forever and never grow up?
Jodi Lynn Anderson writes that “never aging” magic of Neverland quite well: “Englanders had come to Neverland before. … The Englanders had the aging disease. As time went on they turned gray, and shrank, and, inexplicably, they died. It wasn’t that Neverlanders didn’t know anything about death, but not as a slow giving in, and certainly not an inevitability.” pg 13 (ebook)
Tiger Lily’s tribe may age, but how old they appear is contingent on something other than time. It’s curious and magical.
The lost boys come alive in this book with a wildness and unpredictability that I loved: “There was a joyfulness and- at the same time- a fragility about each of them. They were sloppy and uncared for and wildly alert and full of energy.” pg 61, ebook.
Despite their untamed natures, they are still children: “Straw beds had been separated haphazardly into different areas of the burrow, as if the boys hadn’t counted on wanting to live separately when they’d first built it, and only recently pushed themselves as far apart from each other as possible. Still, on one of the beds there was a worn home-sewn toy in the shape of a rabbit, and lying on a pillow, as if it had just been played with, a model of a ship.” pg 61, ebook.
Peter is the boy who has emotions but doesn’t understand them- perpetually young yet always on the verge of growing up.
He’s fiercely admired by his lost boys and, eventually, Tiger Lily: “Peter picked at his hangnail again. “Actually, I never get sad. It’s a waste of time, don’t you think?” Tiger Lily didn’t answer. She was impressed by the idea of deciding not to be sad. His words made him seem very strong. Impervious.” pg 67, ebook
Peter is still Peter in this tale. As far as girls go, he can be charming but also rude and aloof: “I think we could be good friends,” he said, falling into step with her. “It’s perfect because I wouldn’t fall in love with you, like I do with the mermaids. Girls always seem so exotic. But it would be okay with you, because you’re more like… you know. Not like a girl.” pg 77, ebook.
Tinker Bell was a sympathetic character in this book, rather than the spoiled, jealous creature that she is portrayed as in Peter Pan: “A faerie heart is different from a human heart. Human hearts are elastic. They have room for all sorts of passions, and they can break and heal and love again and again. Faerie hearts are evolutionarily less sophisticated…. Our hearts are too small to love more than one person in a lifetime. … I tried to talk sense into my hard little heart. But it had landed on Peter, a creature two hundred times my size and barely aware of me, and there was no prying it loose.” pg 77-78, ebook.
Hook is extra creepy and villainous: “Neverland had called to him out of legends. A green place. A wild place. And most of all, a place where he’d never grow old. Most people in London hadn’t believed it existed, but some still insisted it did, and Hook had cast his lot with them. To get to the island, he’d begged, stolen, and eventually murdered.” pg 89-90, ebook.
And so is Mr. Smee. But, I’ll let Anderson tell you his story. She does a wonderful job of it.
The relationship between Tiger Lily, Peter, and Wendy makes a lot more sense in this story. It is less about any potential failings by the girls. The main source of conflict seems to be Peter’s emotional immaturity: “As you may have guessed already, Peter had a soul that was always telling itself lies. When he was frightened, his soul told itself, “I’m not frightened.” And when something mattered that he couldn’t control, Peter’s soul told itself, “It doesn’t matter.” pg 169, ebook.
The ending of this book was totally satisfying as well for all of the characters, even little Tinker Bell. I can’t say enough good things about it.
It’s easy to see why fairy tell retellings are so popular with books like Tiger Lily out there, waiting to be discovered.
Thanks for reading!