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Peter Pan is back: What's the hook?

October 02, 2006|From the Associated Press

John has discovered a cutlass in his bed; the twins are inexplicably covered in war paint -- and a snapping crocodile is terrorizing the members of the gentlemen's club.

Wendy, always the most astute of Peter Pan's friends, knows what this means. "Something is wrong in Neverland, gentlemen," she announces. "And that is why we must go back."

And so begins another adventure with the impudent boy who never grew up: Thursday sees the publication around the world of "Peter Pan in Scarlet," the authorized sequel by award- winning British writer Geraldine McCaughrean.

The plot is being kept a secret until publication day, but London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for children, which owns the Peter Pan copyright and commissioned the sequel, is promising another tale of excitement and derring-do, featuring all the original's favorite characters. Royalties will be split between the hospital and McCaughrean.

"I wanted to extend the life and usefulness of [J.M.] Barrie's boy," said McCaughrean, 55, who beat out nearly 200 other entrants in a competition to choose an author for the sequel. "The book was not hard to write because Peter really got a grip on me."

The book has been sold in more than 30 countries, including Japan, Estonia and Canada. Advance sales are so brisk that the book is already being reprinted in Britain and the United States, where the first print run alone was 200,000, according to Emma Dryden, who edited the book for Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

To whet appetites, the publishers have released the first chapter of the 275-page book. Twenty years after their original adventure, the children who first accompanied Peter to Neverland are all grown up: The balding John is married with children, Tootles is a judge, Curly a doctor and Slightly is now the Honorable Slightly, having married a titled lady.

The Peter Pan character first appeared in a 1902 novel, "The Little White Bird," and the play that made him famous premiered at the Duke of York's theater in London two years later. Barrie turned the story into a children's book in 1911, and its combination of mystery and magic made it a children's favorite. The famous Disney cartoon version was released in 1953.

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