Peter Pan - The Best Illustrated Children's Edition (by J.M. Barrie, ill. Scott Gustafson)

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"To love would be an awfully big adventure."
J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan)
Last week a delightful letter arrived in my mailbox.

Sandra - a charming reader of this blog - had a question.
Gustafson's Peter Pan

After reading my review of an enchanting illustrated version of the original Pinocchio, Sandra said she wanted to find more smashing illustrated classics for kids.

Roberto Innocenti's illustrated Pinocchio had impressed her. But she had a new wish. Let me quote part of her e-letter:

"Now, if fate would smile on me once more and point me in the direction of another great classic, Peter Pan.  You saved me with Pinocchio.  Do you by chance have a recommendation for a great Peter Pan edition? 


This is another one with endless editions and illustrators.  If there's one by Roberto Innocenti, I missed it.  Wouldn't that be a dream?  I'm having that deja vu feeling again...another rabbit hole perhaps?  Thank you ever so much!" 
Sandra
I told Sandra I had good and bad news for her.

The bad news was that she would have to several days for my response in the form of this blog post.

The good news -  several months ago I bought a great illustrated Peter Pan that I love.In fact it was more than half a year ago - I just looked it up!

Sandra - let me thank you for the great question! I had a great time writing this post.

But, let's not lose more time... lets start our quest for Read Aloud Dad's top illustrated version of Peter Pan! Read on!


Chances are some readers did not read my best illustrated version of Pinocchio review, so let me briefly  repeat what is the object of today's treasure hunt:

Our ideal Peter Pan would have to be:

1. Hardcover

2. Unabridged (Not a synthesized, easy reader, learn-to-read, edited or watered-down version).

3. Illustrated - nicely if possible!

4. A big enough "read-aloud edition" (not a pocket book)

5. The illustrations, layout, fonts, covers and presentation must capture our imagination after we leaf through the book in a store or library or online.

Peter Pan 100th Anniversary Edition (ill. Michael Hague)
Even though one can find many editions of a book on sale, it is pretty difficult to pass all of these conditions.

My first candidate was the:

1. Michael Hague illustrated Peter Pan (100th Anniversary Edition).

I was excited to read the words "100th Anniversary Edition" in the title, I was practically certain that this would be the book for me. 

It is evident from the cover page that it is a completely original different Peter Pan (look at Peter Pan's hairdo!) from Disney's! But we are not looking for Disney. So that's a plus.

This is a 176-page Hague extravaganza (10.3 x 8.4 x 0.8 inches, weighing at 1.9 pounds). This book ticked all the boxes I wanted. Almost.

Hardcover? Yes
Unabridged? Yes
Illustrated? Yes
Big enough? Yes
Captures my imagination? Not sufficiently.

I really did want to like it, but I was - and still am - missing a certain je ne sais quoi. It just didn't click with me. The illustrations, I mean. I found them rich, heavy in symbolism, really imaginative, everything was OK on face value.

1987 edition of Michael Hague's Peter Pan
Still, the book did not work for me because the illustrations left me cold. I wasn't interested in the fate of Hague's Peter Pan.

A brief glance at the original Michael Hague 1987 edition failed to convince me, in fact it just reinforced my feelings.

This wasn't promising. My lack of enthusiasm towards the book's imagery would undoubtedly spill over into my reading and my kids would detect it one day.

I knew I had to look elsewhere for my personal Peter Pan.

But, I do think that Hague's Peter Pan is excellent value for money - just make sure that you like the illustrator's style. Most reviews for it are very positive - keep this in mind!
But the search had to go on for me.

No surprise there - a search for the best edition usually takes large chunk of your time.

My next candidate was the:

2. Sterling Classics edition of Peter Pan, illustrated by Scott McKowen

What a charming cover image (and nicely priced version) of Peter Pan!

Hardcover? Yes
Unabridged? Yes
Illustrated? Not really
Big enough? Yes
Captures my imagination? Yes - but only the cover! 

By the way, I love the philosophy behind the Sterling Classics. They offer affordable, unabridged and hardcover versions of children's classics! Great combination. When building a children's library at home, one can't fill it up only with luxurious large hardcovers with page-to-page illustrations.

Sterling Classics version of Peter Pan
Moderation is needed even in children's literature and saving a dollar here or there is a worthy cause!

This size of this Peter Pan edition is 8.2 x 6.6 x 0.7 inches (weight 14.4 ounces).

Yet, the Sterling Classics - although they are marketed as illustrated and unabridged versions of children's classics - really stumble in the illustrated department. The promise of colorful and buoyant illustrations that is implicitly made on the cover pages is not fulfilled.

Inside, these editions mostly consist of text, text, text (pleasant font and layout for reading), but the small  black and white illustrations are very, very few in number.

I was also hoping to see a colorful cover underneath the dust jacket... but no.

This sort of broke the deal for me and I went on to look for other options.

Some options I eliminated outright like the:

3. Collector's Library edition of Peter Pan and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

Paradoxically, even though it was the smallest one, I simply could not "swallow" it's its diminutive size (6 x 3.7 x 0.7 inches, 6.4 ounces).

Collector's Library edition of Peter Pan

This edition is bound in real cloth and even includes Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, the touching fairy tale in which Barrie first introduced Peter!

So, if size is not an issue, you could look into this edition.
 
Hardcover? Yes
Unabridged? Yes
Illustrated? Yes
Big enough? No
Captures my imagination? Didn't even reach this test. 

But I must admit, I did not even check the quality of its illustrations by Arthur Rackham and F.D. Bedford - just because I eliminated it as too small for reading aloud to two kids.

Although I am yet to reveal my favourite Peter Pan, let me tell you that the good news is that there are more options today, than when I ordered.

One interesting new Peter Pan option that is available today (and wasn't available when I was ordering) is:

4. Michael Foreman's Peter Pan and Wendy (Illustrated Classics)

This lavish edition wasn't in the equation when I was making my personal selection - I simply did not know of it. 

But it is an interesting option.

This is a book book: It's 12 x 9.6 x 0.7 inches and weighs 2.4 pounds.

A brief glance at it reveals that it passes most tests!

Hardcover? Yes
Unabridged? Yes
Illustrated? Yes - a couple of watercolors per chapter
Big enough? Yes
Captures my imagination? I think it would, but I'm not sure about all the illustrations - I haven't seen them.

So check out the illustrations in terms of style and artistic effect before you buy!

Speaking of new editions, fans of acclaimed children's book illustrator Robert Ingpen will be heartened to know that they can also buy his

5. Peter Pan and Wendy: Centenary Edition  (Robert Ingpen)

This exact Ingpen edition was not available when I was ordering for my twins. The size of this 216-page edition is suitable for read-alouds with 9.5 x 7.9 x 1.3 inches and a weigh of 2.2 pounds.

Robert Ingpen's trademark illustrations are world famous and if you like the style - you are in luck!

Ingpen has illustrated some of the best children's classics and just a little digging will reveal a treasure trove of wonderfully illustrated books for your little pumpkins at home.

Hardcover? Yes
Unabridged? Yes
Illustrated? Yes
Big enough? Yes
Captures my imagination? Alas no.

Although this is clearly a fantastic book cover - no doubt about it - I am not a fan of Robert Ingpen's illustrations in children's books.

His drawings are usually darker, colder and more impersonal than I prefer. (this is merely a personal opinion of course - not an objective valuation of his artistic merit).

So, we meet again Monsieur Ingpen... but, alas, I pass - again.

Now we come to my all-time favourite edition:

6. The Viking Juvenile Peter Pan edition, illustrated by Scott Gustafson.

This edition boasts 50 oil paintings in full color! My heart skips a beat when I see them and if I have a complaint - I am truly sad that there are not more of Gustafson's oil paintings. This is already the best version in my opinion, but it could have been a book to kill for - if it had even more illustrations.

Scott Gustafson's Peter Pan

Are the illustrations good? The pictures are simply perfect for children AND adults.

I must admit that I have been in love with Gustafson's illustrations ever since I ordered his masterpiece Classic Fairy Tales. That book I simply do not know how to describe. It is simply intoxicating with its beauty.

For parents with young children, do check out also his remarkable Favourite Rhymes From Mother Goose. Amazing!

Well, Gustafson's master touch has been transposed onto Peter Pan with such feeling for the characters. From the cheeky boyish charm of pretty Peter Pan, to the awe-inspiring Captain Hook.

Scott Gustafson spent approximately four years painting the fifty illustrations in this book.

It is evident why. (And if you must ask - none of the original oil paintings are available for sale).

The two-page paintings of Peter Pan duelling with Captain Hook and of the lost boys on the island are incredible. I must admit, that I would want more illustrations in this book. Still 50 color illustrations on 180 pages is not bad by any means.

Since I bought this edition, I've been itching to read it. But then I stop myself - I want to share the first reading with my twins.

It will be a reading to remember as this book promises to be a marvelous read-aloud.

Gustafson's Peter Pan
Still, does it pass my full test?

Hardcover? Yes
Unabridged? Complete and unabridged!
Illustrated? Yes
Big enough? Yes
Captures my imagination? Yes indeed! 

For your benefit, I will include several more illustrations from Gustafson's Peter Pan edition.

I find them so gorgeous that I can't imagine reading another edition! But then, Scott Gustafson is to blame - all his illustrated books are equally fanastic.

So, Sandra, it's good news after all - you have a great selection to choose from!

If you do make a selection, do tell us. I feel as excited as you are!

Please don't forget to stop by and write.

Lots of Love from

Read Aloud Dad

"Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting."
— J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan)

Tinkerbell (by Scott Gustafson)

Buy Scott Gustafson's illustrated Peter Pan:





Find other editions of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

NOTE:

I did not review all the available Peter Pan editions that were issued ever, not even all that are on sale. Just those that came to fulfilling my five conditions.

Of course, it is possible that I may have skipped an edition that you particularly love or enjoy. Sorry, it wasn't on purpose!

So, let's not remain sad - I'd love to know about the Peter Pan edition that you enjoy most, please use the comments section below to tell me!

5 comments:

  1. *Sigh* If only someone would do an unabridged illustrated Bambi.

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  2. Amen Howie!

    My feelings exactly! An illustrated Bambi is exactly what is missing.

    In fact these days it is even difficult to find a regular unabridged Bambi (even without the illustrations) that is unrelated to Disney.

    But an illustrated, unabridged version of Felix Salten's story - well that would be something else!

    I don't want to get your hopes up, but it seems that an Bambi version illustrated by the best selling illustrator Richard Cowdrey is coming out next month (on Feb 19, 2013), published by Alladin.

    You can see more about it on the publisher's web site (http://bit.ly/133XwkN) or on Amazon (http://amzn.to/XihxV7).



    Hopefully, it will be good!


    If anyone finds out how good it is - please let me know!


    Read Aloud Dad


    Re: @986ec48776624298507cd42fa8b0be74:disqus

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  3. I was so looking forward to reading your recommended version of Peter Pan and tonight was the night! I sat down with my kids ages 9, 8 and 6 and we were ready to dive in. They are not strangers to listening to a read aloud- even a read aloud that is quite a bit over their level. We have been doing it since they were tiny. For some unfortunate reason we could not 'get' Peter Pan. The language was a bit different than we are used to and even I am having a bit of trouble figuring out just who is who and what is going on. It's a children's book- I should be able to get it! Right?! Have you read this with your children yet? On the post above it says you haven't yet, but maybe you have now? What age do you think this book is for? I was trying not to let my children realize that I wasn't getting the whole story because I didn't want to discourage them but they told me themselves a few times that they 'don't understand what is going on' and wanted to stop. I'm going to stick it out and read a bit further. I hate to give up on a classic. Please reply and let me know if you have tackled this one with your children yet. Thanks!

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  4. Hi Amy,

    Thank you so much for your message and sharing your experience. I am certain that many many parents find themselves in the same dilemma (me included!).

    First of all, let me give you the answer you are waiting for - I have not yet read Peter Pan to my twins.

    Although Peter Pan is known as the quintessential children's book, I checked the text several times - and every time I decided it was way over the head of my twins (they are 5.5 years old). I am waiting for the magic window - when they will enjoy the book - not just listen to it.

    I don't think I will be reading Peter Pan to them in the next couple of years for sure. In fact, I don't have a plan for when to introduce the book. It doesn't feel right for them yet, that is what I know. But every parent knows their own child best.

    I share your opinion that the original Peter Pan may not be an enjoyable read aloud for some children who are younger than ten. But the key is - it depends on the child - as with other things in life, there are no absolute right answers here..

    The language is different, the structure is different and the good news is that I think that I think it will work well when kids are 10 or older.. Will it be 12, 13? Maybe for my twins. For other children, maybe younger.

    We are similar in the respect that I like to read a book aloud - when I know that my kids are enjoying it. Although, listening to a book is certainly not harmful, - it is much better if they like the story.

    Your message made me think about what would I do. I would probably do one of the following things - before coming back to the original:

    a. Maybe (possibly, possibly not) read a simplified version more appropriate for their age level (so that they understand the story better - before I tackle the original again)

    b. Come back to the original after a a year or two...

    c. When I start the classic version again (after a year or so), I would read only very short segments (a page or two) every other (or third) day - until the story hopefully draws them in. This would help them to digest what they heard and not be overwhelmed. Plus more time for discussion - if something is confusing.

    d. Read the original on my own beforehand - to make sure that I "get it", because kids can sense when the parent is not enjoying the book very much. If children feel that the parent grasps the story well - or enjoys it - then they often try harder to follow.

    But, this is admittedly guesswork - it is true that I don't have the experience of reading Peter Pan aloud to my kids, so I will point you to a couple of links, where you will be able to read about experiences by other parents with the classic Peter Pan.

    The good news is that Peter Pan will still be a treat .. but maybe in a couple of years or so. :-)

    I am sorry if I haven't helped you a lot, but on the other hand your comment helped me (and other parents!).

    Amy thank so much for sharing your experience!

    Read Aloud Dad

    Re: @ad4053afc514b61246cb0c4bee0fd8b3:disqus

    Links on Peter Pan read-alouds:

    http://reviews.rebeccareid.com/summer-read-alouds/

    http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/268891-what-age-for-read-aloud-classics/

    http://goodbooksforyoungsouls.blogspot.com/2011/06/make-this-summer-you-read-aloud-jm.html

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  5. That was a wonderfully helpful reply! I appreciate it. No guilt in it. I was feeling bad because I wasn't sure I could/would continue the book, but now I don't feel bad waiting a year or two or three. The right time will come. I like all of your suggestions about how to read it when the time comes to try again. Thank you. Thank you also for the links. Now the big questions is...what is our next read aloud? A recent favorite of ours was The Indian in the Cupboard. All three of my kids really enjoyed that one. I did, too! That and The Enormous Egg and Homer Price and The Ordinary Princess...ok, I will stop. We love books here! Thanks again!

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