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The Roberts-Darling family is changing. It changed once before, in the best possible way, when Lily’s mother married Wendy’s father and the two stepsisters became best friends. It grew again when Michael was born. But this change feels different. George Darling and his daughter Wendy will be moving to New York and Lily, her mother, and Michael will be staying behind in Tulsa, close to their Muscogee Creek heritage. This time, the family isn’t growing; it’s growing apart. And as the differences of opinions of the parents trickle down to the children, the stepsisters aren’t sure they’ll ever be best friends again.
But Lily and Wendy aren’t the only people who have been listening to their parents’ whispered fights after bedtime. A boy has been hovering outside their window, along with a tiny fairy. When Peter and Belle finally make their presence known, Wendy is captivated by the magical flying boy, but Lily senses something sinister. For one thing, Peter calls Lily an Injun, and though she doesn’t know exactly what that means, she’s certain that it’s rude. For another thing, when Peter flies out the window, Wendy follows–bringing Michael with her. It isn’t like Wendy to be so thoughtless. There’s something more than flying magic in that fairy dust. Lily chases after her siblings, finding her way to the magical Neverland where Peter has imprisoned generations of children, never letting them return home. Lost on the island and desperate to reunite, both Lily and Wendy will have to find the courage to brave the dangers of Neverland and the humility and forgiveness to become a family again.
There is so much to love in this beautiful story of family and redemption. Smith not only acknowledges the morally troubling aspects of Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy but also gives a voice and agency not only to her Muscogee Creek protagonist but to the other Native people on the island. In fact, all of Smith’s characters are complex and well-rounded–a much needed revision of Barrie’s original. And yet, SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA is truly a revision, not a rejection. The omniscient narration nods to the style of Barrie’s work while being accessible and smooth enough for modern young readers. While Peter Pan’s flaws are brought to the forefront, this is a story of redemption, not a horror story. If you (like me) loved the fantasy of Neverland as a child but grew shocked by racism once you began to recognize it–or if you were injured by the hurtful stereotypes in Peter Pan and need your own redemptive experience with the story–SISTERS OF NEVERSEA is a wonderful book to share with your children or your middle grade students or book club.