Book Traveling Thursdays is a weekly meme in which the blogger discusses a book related to the chosen theme for the week and takes a peek at the various covers of that book. This will be my first week participating! If you would like to participate, too, check out the Goodreads group of the same name to find out everything you need to know.
National Book Lovers day was two days ago, so this week’s theme is a book you think every book-lover should read.
There are so many books that I could choose for this theme! There are wonderful books about books and books within books like Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. There are the books that radically changed my perspective on life, like Grendel by John Gardner, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, and On the Road by Jack Kerouac (and nearly everything else I’ve read by the Beats).
And then there are those books that should be read because they’re incredible and transport you to other worlds. What book-lover doesn’t read to be taken elsewhere? The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling are well-loved favorites in this category.
But before we followed the Fellowship of the Ring through Middle-Earth, before Men, Elves, and a sprinkling of Hobbits stood against the forces of Sauron, before the heir of Slytherin overheard the prophecy of the birth of the boy who would be his downfall, before a few brave souls had to make the choice between what is right and what is easy, before Tolkien and Rowling swept us up in the tide of their incredibly vast imaginations and carried us off to distant shores, J.M. Barrie flew us through the starry night sky to Neverland, a world where anything is possible and where adventurousness is the greatest virtue — a book-lover’s dream! Therefore I think every book-lover ought to read Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.
A mischievous young boy who can fly and never grows up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood having adventures on the island of Neverland as the leader of the Lost Boys, interacting with fairies, pirates, mermaids, Native Americans, and occasionally ordinary children from the world outside Neverland.
I have read Peter Pan countless times since childhood, but I get more out of it every time I read it. It is tender, exciting, hilarious, heartbreaking, and wondrous all at once. As a child, I took the second star to the right and flew straight on till morning to a place where I would never have to grow up and where fairies, mermaids, and pirates (the Elizabethan-era kind) were real. As an adult, now that I’m quite happy to have grown up and to have a family of my own, having learned that adulthood has far more freedoms and joys than childhood, I appreciate Barrie’s talent as a storyteller, the memorable narration that makes you feel as though you were a part of the story, and the beauty of the world he created. Peter Pan is a classic that can be read in a day, so if you haven’t read it yet, set aside a lazy Sunday to do so!
The original artwork for the first edition of Peter Pan, published in 1911, is absolutely stunning. The cover has beautiful gold embossings of Peter, the beautiful mermaids, and Captain Hook’s famous foe, the ticking crocodile.
There are too many American editions of the book to share all of them, but here are some beautiful covers:
Least Favorite Covers
It’s hard to find an ugly cover of Peter Pan! I feel like the story has something to offer everyone’s imaginations, so the illustrations have always been very inspired. There are a few, however, which are less than aesthetic:
The first, a Persian edition from 2008, doesn’t capture the magic of the book whatsoever, in my opinion. The second is a German edition from 2001 that does absolutely nothing for me. The goofy cover illustration looks like something you’d find on the cover of a board book for toddlers. The third, a 2013 edition from Dalmation Press Classics, is just bewildering. I admit that it has been a while since I reread Peter Pan, but I have no recollection of an acorn having any significance in the story. I can’t stand things that are meant to be so “deeply symbolic” that you are simply left confused. I can only guess that the acorn either represents youth and the potential of youth, or is a round-about reference to the tree in which Peter, the Lost Boys, and the Darling children reside. Who knows? Either way it tells a potential reader absolutely nothing about the story inside.
There are so many beautiful covers to choose from that it’s hard to pick a favorite, and it’s a tie between these two:
This 2007 edition from Oxford University Press beautifully encapsulates the fantastic nature of the story, and Peter’s knowing smile is enchanting.
The second is the centenary edition from Sterling Illustrated Classics. Its illustrations are so light and beautiful that I find myself swept back to the first few times I ever read Peter Pan as a child, when I loved the way it made me feel so much that I slept with it under my pillow in the hopes that it would enchant my dreams with visions of mermaids and the shimmer of fairy dust. When a friend, a mother-to-be, asked that the only gifts brought to her baby shower last year were books for her daughter’s shelf, I gave her baby daughter a copy of this book so she could experience the same enchantment and wonder I felt as a little girl. I plan to buy the same edition for my own newborn son; he’ll inherit my copy someday, but I want him to have his very own to smuggle out from under his pillow on sleepless nights, too, when he wants a little sprinkling of fairy dust to sweeten his dreams.