Sisters of the Neversea
Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Review copy: Digital ARC via Edelweiss
Availability: June 1, 2021
Summary: Lily and Wendy have been best friends since they became stepsisters. But with their feuding parents planning to spend the summer apart, what will become of their family—and their friendship?
Little do they know that a mysterious boy has been watching them from the oak tree outside their window. A boy who intends to take them away from home for good, to an island of wild animals, Merfolk, Fairies, and kidnapped children.
A boy who calls himself Peter Pan.
My Review: Cynthia Leitich Smith reimagined Neverland and the adventures of Peter Pan. The original story has been problematic since it was created, but there was much about it to love. Smith has found a way to address some of the racist depictions of Indigenous folks along with a few of the gender role issues too.
In this retelling, the children are from a blended family with a British father and a mother who is part of the Muscogee Creek Nation. The children are feeling unsettled because of conflict between their parents and in the midst of this, Peter Pan arrives on the scene. He and Tinkerbell are very charming and appealing to Michael and Wendy, but Lily is not convinced that he is trustworthy. He uses words like Injuns which offends them all and calls them useless girls since they can't sew properly. Lily informs his that her mother is brilliant at math and managing money. I love it when Wendy informs Peter that their dad also didn't teach them how to sew.
Of course the children do end up in Neverland, but it is not as carefree and lovely as Peter made it out to be. As in the original, Peter is pretty focused on himself and does not take advice or instruction well. Though he delivers on adventure, he is not concerned with the needs of the children and he has a lot of "wrongheaded" ideas about Native children.
There are other children already on the island including Daniel who is Leech Lake Ojibwe from St. Paul. Through Daniel and others, readers see that Native people are still alive and that there is a great deal of variety among them. Lily and the others also appreciate their cultural identity and their family members more as time passes.
Recommendation: Sisters of the Neversea is a fantastic way to visit the world of Neverland again without having to see the damaging stereotypical Natives. It is a great adventure story even for those who are unfamiliar with Peter Pan. Siblings fall out and feelings are hurt, but love is still there and of course there are fairies and merpeople along with pirates so it's going to be a crowd pleaser. This story is a lot of fun and has great representation. I plan to purchase it for my elementary school library and I believe it will be a great addition to any library serving young people.