Peter and the Starcatchers is a best-selling children's novel that was published by Hyperion Books, a subsidiary of Disney, in 2004. Written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, the book provides a backstory for the character Peter Pan, and serves as a prequel to J. M. Barrie's novel Peter and Wendy. It was illustrated by artist Greg Call.
The book is followed by two sequels, also set before the famous adventure with Peter and Wendy: Peter and the Shadow Thieves (2006) and Peter and the Secret of Rundoon (2007). A series of five Never Land chapter books has begun, the first two of which are Escape from the Carnivale and Cave of the Dark Wind. In May 2008 the writers announced a fourth book: Peter and the Sword of Mercy.
In 2005, Disney hired Jay Wolpert to adapt the book to film, reportedly to use 3D animation. A stage play version of the book is currently in the works for a winter 2009 debut at La Jolla Playhouse, as part of an arrangement with Disney Theatrical.
The story begins on a ship the Never Land. A young orphan boy, Peter, and his four friends, Prentiss, James, Thomas, and Tubby Ted, have been sent from St. Norbert's Home for Wayward Boys to board the ship, and soon find out they are going to serve as slaves to ruthless King Zarboff III of Rundoon. Living in terrible conditions, Peter and his friends plot for a way to escape. However, while on the ship, Peter (the future Peter Pan and the novel's hero) meets a young girl named Molly Aster. Cocky Peter is thrown off his guard by the spirited Molly - he also develops an affection for her, drawn to her by her striking green eyes. Peter encounters Molly several times while wandering the ship, and finds her somewhat mysterious.
Soon, strange things begin happening on the Never Land. While foraging for food, Peter has discovered an old, battered chest on board, (and above it a flying rat) and finds that Molly and the crewmen Slank and Alf know things about it that he does not. Peter soon confronts Molly and she tells him, after realizing she cannot keep the secret much longer, that she is an apprentice to a group of people called the Starcatchers. Molly explains that the job of Starcatchers is to gather "starstuff" that falls from shooting stars and protect it from people called "the Others", who will misuse its wonderful powers. She also says that the "Others" had been losing the struggle for the "starstuff" until this batch fell to earth. She tells Peter of her discovery that the trunks were switched by the "Others" and that the fake is on her father's ship the "Wasp". Peter does not believe her at first, but Molly goes on to prove starstuff's power by showing Peter that she has the ability to fly. Molly attributes much of the violence in the world to struggles over starstuff. She tells Peter that people like Attila the Hun, the evil dictator, abused starstuff to gain power, and she says that centaurs and sea serpents were originally animals mutated by starstuff's powers. She also says that the genius of artists like Leonardo da Vinci was due to starstuff. She asks Peter to help her protect the "starstuff" on board. The "starstuff" was not expected to be on the "Never Land". It was thought to be on the "Wasp".
Meanwhile, the pirate Black Stache has planned and plotted to capture a naval ship named The Wasp. The Wasp is the fastest ship on the sea, and in order to catch it, Stache raises a gigantic, black, brassiere-shaped sail he calls "The Ladies". He speeds up to catch the ship, captures it, and renames it the Jolly Roger. He does not know that Molly's father, the great Starcatcher Leonard Aster, was on board with the decoy "starstuff" trunk full of sand. Leonard escapes the capture of Black Stache, but the Never Land does not.
When the Never Land is attacked by Black Stache during a massive thunderstorm, the decrepit ship wrecks on the rocks surrounding a small island. The few survivors - including Molly, Peter, Alf, and the orphans, are separated, but they individually take shelter on the island. The sailor Alf helps to guide the orphans, but they are soon captured by the Mollusk Tribe native to the island, and nearly fed to the tribe's neighbor, crocodile Mr. Grin. Soon Molly and Peter realize that the trunk of starstuff has disappeared, and together they embark on a search for it. At the same time, the seaman Slank, who is actually one of the "Others", is trying to get control of the starstuff. Even Black Stache has caught wind of its magic powers. Molly and Peter try to find the magic trunk, but break away when they have an argument. Many adventures ensue while the two are apart - Peter is nearly fed to the Crocodile, Molly is captured by Slank and Stache, Peter is repeatedly wounded but saved by mermaids. After a climactic battle with the villains, Peter cuts off Stache's left hand, which is eaten by Mr. Grin. Slank and his cohort Little Richard are defeated as well, but during the battle, the tribe's leader, Fighting Prawn, is accidentally wounded. Luckily, Peter has a small amount of remaining starstuff, which he uses to heal the Mollusk chief.
Thanks to Molly and Peter's efforts, the trunk of starstuff is saved, returned to the Starcatchers and Molly's surviving father. Peter however, in his surviving exposure to the starstuff, has gained the permanent ability to fly. It is also uncertain as to whether or not he will ever age. Peter learns he will be an outcast, and even though Molly will return to London, he decides to stay on the island, so he can be the person he "really is" and not "a freakshow". The orphan boys decide to remain with him, and Leonard Aster creates a fairy, which they name Tinker Bell, to protect Peter. Peter and the other orphan boys are soon taught by the natives how to build a house, and they learn to survive on the island, which Peter names "Never Land" after finding a plank that said "Never Land" from the ship that wrecked on its rocks as he watches the ship containing Molly sail back to England.
Although Peter and the Starcatchers and its follow-ups are presented as prequels to Peter and Wendy, they have a number of continuity differences with the original novel, particularly contradicting the material in The Little White Bird, Barrie's prior story about Peter's early adventures. Most of these differences are established in the first book in the series. The following table identifies distinct differences between the works of Barry and Pearson, and those of Barrie. (P&SC=Peter and the Starcatchers, P&ST=Peter and the Shadow Thieves, P&SR=Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, LWB=The Little White Bird, P&W=Peter and Wendy.)
|Barry and Pearson||Barrie|
|Peter's origin||Peter is an orphan from St. Norbert's Home for Wayward Boys. He is shipwrecked on the island of Neverland. (P&SC) He is later revealed to be the son of a Mr. Pan, who is a Watcher for starstuff. (P&SR)||Peter flies away when he is a baby and has adventures in Kensington Gardens. He flies to Neverland after being "abandoned" by his mother. (LWB)|
|Peter's appearance||Peter is approximately twelve to fourteen years old. He wears rags. (P&SC)||Peter still has all his baby teeth. He wears clothing made of leaves. (P&W)|
|Peter's personality||Peter feels a great sense of responsibility for his friends. He is also attracted to girls, particularly Molly and the mermaid Teacher. (P&SC)||Peter is very careless, spending his time on adventures and play, and he never feels guilty for anything. He never notices that he is adored by Wendy Darling, Tiger Lily, Tinker Bell, and the mermaids, thinking of girls (if at all) as mother figures. (P&W)|
|the Lost Boys||Peter's original companions are from St. Norbert's Orphanage and were shipwrecked on Neverland. (P&SC) They leave for England after stating that "they are going to be men". (P&SR) The Lost Boys of Barry and Pearson's story are rescued from slavery in Rundoon. (P&SR)||The Lost Boys were children who fell out of their carriages in Kensington Gardens, but not claimed within seven days. (P&W)|
|Captain Hook / Black Stache||Black Stache is described as greasy and dirty, with a pock-marked face, black eyes and terrible breath, and a long stringy mustache and hair. His left hand is cut off by Peter in self-defense. (P&SC)||Captain Hook is a tidy and dandified gentleman, with bright blue eyes, shiny dark curls, and a swarthy complexion. He copies the clothing of King Charles II, is somewhat musical, a magnificent storyteller, and loves sweet music and flowers. His right hand is purposely cut off by Peter in a battle. (P&W)|
|Tinker Bell||A small green bird is immersed in a bag of starstuff, mutating into a fairy the crew names Tinker Bell. (P&SC)||Tinker Bell, like all other fairies, was born either from the shattered laugh of the first baby, or from the first laugh of a new baby. (P&W)|
|starstuff / fairy dust||Starstuff, a greenish powder found from stars, mutates humans and animals on contact, causes extreme greed, contributes to the genius of various artists, and has wonderful healing properties. Allows people to fly in limited amounts. (P&SC)||Implicitly produced by fairies. Allows people to fly if they also think happy thoughts. (P&W)|
|flight||Peter gained permanent flying ability by over-exposure to starstuff. (P&SC)||Peter – like all infants – was part bird, which allowed him to fly away. Later, the fairies helped him fly. (LWB) For others to fly, they must think happy thoughts and have access to fairy dust. (P&W)|
|not growing up||Peter was mutated by over-exposure to starstuff. (P&SC) Peter is sad that his friends are growing older while he is not, and wishes he could age along with them. (P&ST)||Peter escaped from growing up at the age of seven days. (LWB) He simply refused to grow up. (P&W)|
|shadows||Shadows are animate extensions of one's soul reflecting the owner's feelings, and without them humans are rendered zombie-like and unable to fly. (P&ST)||Peter's shadow is like a piece of laundry after it's removed from him, and he flies to Neverland and back without it. (P&W)|
|Neverland||Neverland is a physical island that can be reached by ship. Starstuff is responsible for all the strange creatures and conflicts in Neverland. (P&SC)||Neverland is a metaphor for a child's make-believe and dreams, which also shape the island and give it its magic. It can become real, an amalgamation of fantasy, for those that are gay (happy), innocent and heartless, or when the island is "looking for them."(P&W)|
|mermaids||The mermaids are fish mutated by starstuff into semi-human form. They do not speak English and, for a time, have sharp fish-like teeth. (P&SC)||The mermaids are simply imagined creatures, the original inhabitants of their lagoon. They are more like human women, lazily combing their hair in the sun and playing ball games with bubbles.(P&W)|
|Indians||The Mollusk Tribe, resembling islanders of the Pacific or East Indies, with marine names (e.g. Fighting Prawn). (P&SC)||The Piccaninny Tribe, resembling American Indians, with corresponding names (e.g. Great Big Little Panther). (P&W)|
|George Darling||14-year-old George learns of Neverland and shadows from his friend Molly. (P&ST)||Mister Darling ridicules the idea of a lost shadow until he is shown Peter's. (P&W)|