3 out of 4 stars
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Juna Jinsei's Essence of Neverland takes the reader on a journey back into the world of J. M. Barrie's beloved Peter Pan stories. In this rendition of the timeless children's classic, Peter Pan has met his demise and Neverland is in peril. To save this magical world, the guardian spirit of Neverland dispatches Tinkerbell and her fairy friends into the real world to find a child worthy of becoming the new Pan. Four children--Kuthanda, Rakana, Dobrata, and Khwan Glaohan--are given the task to unite the various peoples of Neverland against a destructive force. With the help of fairy magic and a host of new friends, can the four children save Neverland from doom?
Essence of Neverland is a unique take on the beloved story that blends familiar elements of Peter Pan with new ideas that work quite well within the parameters of Barrie's tale. There are plenty of surprises as the plot unfolds, but everything ties together seamlessly with the original story. The author also does an excellent job of developing the personalities and backstories of both familiar and new characters, and does this especially well with some of the iconic characters from the original.
In addition to providing an entertaining fantasy story, Essence of Neverland contains meaningful lessons for children and adolescents. The book emphasizes the importance of learning to work with others, along with the healing power of forgiveness and the possibility of redemption. The four children also display positive attitudes in the face of hardship and a willingness to see the good in everyone and every situation. Kuthanda, Dobrata, Rakana, and Khwan Glaohan are excellent role models, and the cultural diversity among the protagonists ensures that a majority of readers will be able to find a character with whom they can relate.
As wonderful as this story is, there is some room for improvement regarding the writing quality. The writing is by no means bad, but I did notice small errors throughout the book, mostly in the form of homonym mix-ups (pedal/petal, shutter/shudder, etc). There are also some parts of the book that feel unnecessarily lengthy, which may be distracting for some readers.
Writing errors aside, Essence of Neverland is a take a wonderful take on the Peter Pan story, and I give it 3 out of 4 stars. If not for the errors, I would have awarded it four. I would recommend this book to readers aged 11 and older, although it would be an excellent read-aloud choice for younger children as well.
Essence of Neverland
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