Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson are already big names in the book world—Barry is the author of a truckload of best-selling humor titles (including his latest Boogers Are My Beat) and a mystery novel (Big Trouble), and Pearson is the creator of a string of well-regarded thrillers. The two friends, who are bandmates in the all-writers musical group the Rockbottom Remainders, hatched a plan to try their hands at a children's book. The result is Peter and the Starcatchers, a fast-paced and wholly original look at what Peter Pan might have been up to before the events depicted in J.M. Barrie's classic Peter Pan. BookPage recently asked the co-authors to tell us more about the project. Though they wouldn't reveal all their secrets (like who came up with characters' names such as King Zarboff the Third? And did they edit one another's writing?), they did share some interesting details about working together.
BookPage: What do you think J.M. Barrie would have to say about this prequel?
Dave Barry: He'd say: "Dang! I must be 150 years old by now!"
Ridley Pearson: He'd say, "Where's my check?"
What's the deal with boys and pirates—why the enduring fascination?
Dave: There's just something appealing about the idea of swashbuckling, of swinging on a rope with a knife clenched in your teeth. Of course, if I ever actually tried that, I would need years of cheek surgery.
Ridley: I'm a recreational tree climber (Dave accompanied me once, 80 feet up a Douglas fir). J.M. Barrie set up the pirate fascination; we just ran with it.
What's harder, writing a novel all by yourself or collaborating on one?
Dave: I think writing alone is harder. The great thing about working with Ridley is that he's a nuclear reactor of plot ideas—if you hit a snag, he comes up with a dozen ways around it.
Ridley: The beauty of collaboration is having someone with whom to solve problems as they come up. Dave's instincts for simplicity and action, plus his skills as a former teacher of English (to business types) make the process seamless. And it doesn't hurt to smile while you're working, something else Dave brings to the page.
What was the best/worst part of working with Dave?
Ridley: Working with Dave requires regular facial massage and humility, because he's too damn smart for his own good.
What was the best/worst part of working with Ridley?
Dave: The best part about working with Ridley is that he's highly imaginative, and incredibly productive. The worst part is that he's a madman for work. He wants to write the entire book in ONE SITTING.
Since you're already established authors for adults, why did you want to write a book for children?
Dave: It just seemed like something new that would be fun to do. And it really was, which is why we plan to do it again.
Ridley: I think Dave and I are basically kids in 50-plus bodies, so it's nice to acknowledge what's really going on. Added to that, we both have kids under seven, and they can't read much of what we normally write, so it was nice to create something they could finally read of ours.
Do you think your kids will like the book?
Dave: They'd better.
Ridley: Paige (7 years old) read it in just over four weeks. She LOVED it.
When you were a child, what were your favorite books and authors?
Dave: A.A. Milne, Walt Kelly, Robert Benchley, P.G. Wodehouse, the staff of Mad magazine and whoever wrote all those really bad Tom Swift books.
Ridley: There was a series called Landmark Books—historical "faction" that I thoroughly enjoyed; Hardy Boys; Harold and the Purple Crayon; Frank Baum.
What books have you most enjoyed reading with (or to) your children?
Dave: Winnie the Pooh is still my favorite read-to book.
Ridley: The Wizard of Oz was the most fun with Paige because she was spellbound.
If your book makes it to the big screen, who should play Peter in the movie?
Dave: Me. (This would require a MAJOR diet.)
Ridley: Dave, but this would require a MAJOR diet. Copyright 2004 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2005 Spring
In a story explaining how Peter Pan and the Lost Boys (here all orphans) and Captain Hook ended up in Never Land, Peter and the boys join forces with Molly, a Starcatcher. The book is slow and not nearly as funny as it wants to be; too many plot twists and stereotyped characters mar what could have been a wild pirate adventure. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2004 #5
In a story explaining how Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, and Captain Hook all ended up in Never Land, Peter and the boys are orphans, traveling on a decrepit ship to Rundoon, where they will become servants to King Zarboff -- who has a nasty habit of feeding his servants to his snake. Also on board is a girl named Molly, a Starcatcher; Starcatchers are people (and porpoises) who try to prevent "starstuff" (think fairy dust) from falling into the wrong hands. Through a series of unlikely events, the greatly feared pirate Black Stache (so-called for his mustache) captures the Never Land in an attempt to get the "greatest treasure ever taken to sea," but Peter and Molly jettison the chest containing the starstuff just as a huge storm destroys the Never Land. Somehow they all end up on Mollusk Island, where they fight amongst themselves -- as well as with the island's inhabitants and a group of mermaids (created by starstuff) -- to gain control of the treasure. The book is slow and not nearly as funny as it wants to be; too many plot twists and numerous heavily stereotyped characterizations mar what could have been a wild pirate adventure. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2004 August #1
A much-loved humorist and a renowned writer of adult thrillers make a strong combined crossover bid with this compulsively readable prequel to Peter Pan. The plot revolves around a trunk full of "starstuff," a celestial substance that induces both feelings of well-being and unpredictable physical changes (the ability to fly or to stop aging) in those who handle it. When a secret society called Starcatchers tries transporting the starstuff to safety, the shipment is hijacked for nefarious purposes by the wonderfully named Slank-after which it changes hands over and over as a quintet of orphans led by alpha male Peter, feared pirate Black Stache (named for his facial hair), mermaids, island folk, and an oversized crocodile dubbed Mister Grin are thrown into the never-a-dull-moment plot. Despite continual danger and violence, wounds and corpses disappear with Disney-like speed, and by the end, all the major characters except Wendy and sibs appear onstage (and Black Stache is ready for a new moniker). This doesn't capture the subtler literary qualities of its progenitor, but readers drawn by authorial star power or swashbuckling will come away satisfied. (Fiction. 11-13, adult) Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2004 August #4
Bestselling adult authors Barry and Pearson imagine a rollicking adventure as a prequel to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Those curious about how Captain Hook lost his hand, why Peter never ages and can fly, and how a band of boys came to live in Never Land, will be sated by the magic-dusted plot points and the lively pirate confabulation here. As the novel opens, Peter and several others from St. Norbert's Home for Wayward Boys are shipped off on the ship Never Land to be servants to the cruel King of Rundoon. On board, Peter meets Molly Aster (sharp readers will surmise she is an ancestor of Wendy), who reveals herself to Peter as a Starcatcher and imparts secrets of certain falling stars and the precious "starstuff" cache below deck. But all is not smooth sailing, as pirate Black Stache and his mates (including Smee) get wind of the treasure. Several sea chases and battles and a couple of shipwrecks later, all the key players end up on the island of Mollusk. As all sides try to obtain the gold-glowing contents of the trunk, talking dolphins and a giant crocodile also make the scene. The tale contains a few too many skirmishes over said treasure, but the authors keep the pace brisk and the chapters brief, employing humorous exchanges (e.g., Black Stache "had a real soft spot for his ma, and was truly sorry for the time he'd marooned her"), slapstick action and flying, of course. Peter Pan fans will find much to like in a what-if scenario that pays respectful tribute to the original. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2004 October
Gr 5-9-This prequel to Peter Pan refers as much to the 1953 animated Disney film as to J. M. Barrie's original play and novel. The early chapters introduce the archetypal antagonists: Peter, leader of a group of orphan boys being sent into slavery aboard the Never Land, and Black Stache, a fearsome pirate who commands a villainous crew. New characters include Molly Aster and her father. Molly, at 14, is an apprentice Starcatcher, a secret society formed to keep evildoers from obtaining "starstuff," magic material that falls to earth and conveys happiness, power, increased intelligence, and the ability to fly. Inevitably, the ships wreck off a tropical island and a trunk of starstuff is temporarily lost. Here, readers meet more familiar characters: the mermaids in their lagoon; the indigenous people who live in the jungle (modern versions of Barrie's redskins); and, of course, the crocodile. The authors plait multiple story lines together in short, fast-moving chapters, with the growing friendship between Molly and Peter at the narrative's emotional center. Capitalizing on familiar material, this adventure is carefully crafted to set the stage for Peter's later exploits. This smoothly written page-turner just might send readers back to the original.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2004 December
How did Peter Pan learn to fly? Why does he live in Never Land? These questions and more are answered by these bestselling adult authors in their fanciful prequel to the story of Peter Pan. Peter's saga begins as he and his companions from the St. Norbert's Home for Wayward Boys are forcibly sent to the land of Rundoon so that they can serve the fearsome King Zarboff the Third. Peter and his friends must make the perilous journey across the high seas on a derelict ship called the Never Land, commanded by the cruel First Officer Slank. Peter soon befriends Molly, another young passenger who is on a secret mission to protect a trunk filled with a powerful and mysterious substance known as "starstuff." Molly and Peter face one dangerous adventure after another as they encounter a deadly storm, angry natives, ferocious mermaids, and of course, vicious pirates-led by you-know-who. As one would expect in a book co-authored by Barry, there are moments of his trademark quirky humor, but the emphasis in this tale is on the action. To some extent, the development of the characters and the emotional impact of the story suffer because of it. Peter is one of the main characters, yet by the end of the story readers still do not know him very well. But fans of fantasy adventure probably will not mind much because they will have had so much fun following Peter's daring exploits.-Amy Luedtke 4Q 4P M J Copyright 2004 Voya Reviews.