Review of Sisters of the Neversea

Sisters of the Neversea
by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Intermediate    Heartdrum/HarperCollins    320 pp.    g
6/21    978-0-06-286997-5    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-286999-9    $8.99

In her reimagining of a classic, Smith gives readers a decidedly modern look at the magic, adventure, and mystery of Barrie’s Peter Pan, without its derogatory depictions of Indigenous people. The story opens in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where stepsisters Wendy Darling and Lily Roberts are weathering the fallout of their parents’ marital crisis and conflicting professional ambitions. Ms. Roberts-Darling is Muscogee Creek and is committed to the economic development of her tribe. She’d offered to officially adopt Wendy, but Wendy balked at the idea in deference to her late mother and is heading to New York for the summer with her English financier father. The rifts between the once-inseparable stepsisters and between their parents are not the only ones. Peter Pan (who shows up at the Roberts-Darling residence on a mission to find a storyteller to bring to Neverland) has been deserted by his shadow, who is sick and tired of the boy’s bullying ways. With a generous dose of fairy dust, Wendy and her little brother Michael are whisked off to Neverland, and Lily follows to try to rescue them. In that would-be paradise, there are environmental and humanitarian disasters looming all around, and even the satisfaction of finding a longed-for storyteller is short-lived once Wendy announces that she’s about to turn thirteen and so, by Peter’s own decree, must be fed to a giant crocodile. This smart and engaging middle-grade novel intertwines bits of Barrie’s language, some strong and resourceful Indigenous kids, and themes of the importance of family and the powerful bonds of sisterhood into an original and wholly satisfying bit of magic.

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Luann Toth
Luann Toth

Luann Toth is a former reviews editor at School Library Journal. She holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh.

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