Magic Tastes Like Pickles

The Wendy by Erin Micelle Sky and Steven Brown is a thoroughly charming re-imagined tale of Peter Pan. It is not simply a retelling of the classic in modern language; it is a new story in a new style with modern language but containing familiar characters in a setting beginning in 1780. Somewhere in the story, Peter Pan will explain the title. Why is it “The” Wendy as opposed to “Wendy’s Story” or a similar variation? Tinker Belle is present with an interesting explanation on “her” colors and how they change. Captain Hook is present but not as a character devoted to evil. Still not a nice guy, but not a devotee of darkness. Wendy has a crew, Peter Pan has a crew, and Captain Hook has a crew. I haven’t found any alligators in this adaptation but this is Book One. Although this is a standalone novel, I look forward to the second novel planned for release in 2019.

I can only describe the writing style as “cute.” It will appeal to YA readers of different ages. Older YA readers will like Wendy’s attitude toward misogyny, patriarchy, and various forms of slavery. Adult readers might like the historical setting; I am a fan of writing set in the time of Alexander Dumas and 1800s England and France. The writing can still be charming for adults if they do not muddy the charm by trying to overanalyze the appeal. The novel has forty-seven chapters and it completely caught my attention in Chapter Two. Wendy has hit bottom in her expectation of what her life can realistically become. She has an idea of what she wants but despairs of ever realizing her dreams due to her origin, an orphan, and her gender. Then she meets a remarkable man and the following exchange takes place. It is a bit long but was remarkable to me for two reasons. Keep in mind that our protagonist is a young girl named Wendy Darling.

“Miss Darling. My name is Gustavus Vassa. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.” He bowed in her direction without standing up. “Forgive me, Miss Darling, when I say you are far too young to know what you will or will not become.” Wendy glanced back up at him, clearly hoping he would go on. “Take me, for instance,” he continued, happy to oblige her. “I was born in Africa with the name Olaudah Equiano. When I was only a boy, even younger than you, I was captured and sold into slavery. I thought surely I would die. And I almost did. Many times. But I ended up sailing all over the world. “I have seen the Mediterranean and the Americas and the islands of the Caribbean. I have seen fish that fly and men whose lives were saved by their dreams. I have seen poisoners found out by magic, by the men who carried their victims’ coffins, and I have seen women who could tell you both your past and your future without ever having met you before. “I have been a free boy named Olaudah Equiano and a slave named Gustavus Vassa, and now I am free once again. I have been a plantation manager and a barber and a scientist and even a sea captain for a time.” “You were a captain?” Wendy exclaimed, interrupting. “Yes. As I said, for a time. I have learned how to make fresh water from the sea, and I have used that knowledge to save my life in a land where the sun never sets and where entire ships are trapped in ice forever. I have done all this, but when I was a boy I thought I would spend my whole life in my mother’s village. So you cannot say today what you might or might not do tomorrow. That much is certain.” “Yes, but you’re a man though,” Wendy pointed out. “Women are different.” “People would say the same about a slave, I think,” Mr. Vassa (or Mr. Equiano) suggested gently. “But women are not as different everywhere as they are here in England. In the village where I was born, we did not have sailing ships. But we did have weapons—swords and bows and even firearms. Both men and women were trained to fight, to protect the village. When I was a boy, I once climbed a tree and watched my mother charge into battle carrying a broadsword.” (Kindle Locations 121-138).

The first reason I thought this remarkable was the way Gustavus advised Wendy. So many times an adult will say “You have so much in your future. You can be anything you want to be.” The adult is thinking about his or her choices and what might have been. The adult, in an effort not to direct the child into a direction the child thinks the adult wants, does not give specifics. The child hears “anything you want… blah, blah, blah …” Here, Gustavus gives advice but does not prescribe. In giving so many specifics, Gustavus provokes thought about possibilities and also gives examples of rising above disadvantage. Wendy listened, no “blah …blah.”

The second reason I found this remarkable will be found in the acknowledgments, (Kindle location 3406-3411). It is not the same as a spoiler, but close, so I won’t reveal it here. In the acknowledgments, a reader will find much information about the amount of research the authors did to produce this novel. It is rare that I find the acknowledgments impressive but that is the case with this story.

Then there is the understated humor. This appears several times as author observations and notes directed at the reader. Another element I found entertaining and humorous was the author’s physical description of Wendy. She has a very expressive eyebrow. There is also a “secret” kiss that appears (or not) depending on Wendy’s mood in interaction with other characters. I found the description of Wendy vivid and unforgettable. And the magic that smells green and tastes like pickles.

There is a lot to recommend this novel. It was my first Kindle read since the complete crash and disintegration of my computer hard drive a few days ago. This novel was a nice reintroduction to my reading routine. I feel it deserves five Amazon stars. Not my usual genre, I was happy to purchase this from Amazon for USD 1.99.

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