Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Tween Reads

Book Review: Capt. Hook, by J.V. Hart (illus. by Brett Helquist) (HarperCollins, 2005)

Recommended for ages 12+

Did you ever wonder what Captain Hook was like as a teenager, before he became Peter Pan’s nemesis? If so, this may be the book for you. Hook Screenwriter J.V. Hart adds to the Peter Pan mythology by giving readers the story of 15-year old James “Jas” Matthews’ eventful stint at the prestigious Eton College.

The bastard of a British lord and an unidentified mother and raised by a Shakespearean actress, James arrives at Eton with the odds against him. Colleger Arthur Darling targets him for bullying, but James is no shrinking violet. He defiantly pushes back against the bullies and in doing so empowers the other young Oppidans. He befriends fellow student “Jolly” Roger Davies and rises to the top of his class, aggravating Darling all the way. Dreaming of a place where he can be free that he calls “Neverland”, he plots the creation of his future. He also adopts a poisonous spider he names Electra, captures the heart of a Sultana and challenges Darling to a duel. Escaping Eton, James destroys all records of his existence in a fire; his father answers this by sending him out to sea – and that’s where the adventures really begin.

Hart was inspired to write this story based on Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie’s Eton speech, “Hook at Eton” and sprinkles homages to Barrie and Peter Pan throughout the book. A Series of Unfortunate Events illustrator Brett Helquist’s artwork is on display here at the chapter heads and some illustrations throughout the book.

My main problem with Capt. Hook is this – there is a lot of story to be contained in these pages and I found the pacing off at some points, the storytelling lags and at others, speeds by. On two occasions, Hart begins wrapping up the story rather than just that portion of the story, which threw me off as a reader. Jas himself is a well-drawn character and it was interesting to see him drawn as an antihero; I would be interested in seeing what led him to make the jump from the noncomformist antihero to the villain he ultimately becomes.

This book was suggested for ages 10 and up, but the violence, language and overall density of the material suggests a more mature reader – 12 and up – should pick this up and be his or her own judge.

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Author:

I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading (http://whatchareading.com). I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (http://www.onwednesdays.net/), where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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