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Monday, April 4, 2016

Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz: Book Review

61gH9OG43wL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Do you like pirates? Does the thought of having a swashbuckling adventure on the high seas appeal to you? 12-year-old Jocelyn Hook certainly feels that way, though she has a huge advantage over the rest of us when it comes to achieving that goal being she is the daughter of the infamous Captain Hook.

Unfortunately Jocelyn was orphaned very young and was left to be raised by her grandfather, a man who insisted she grow up to be a fine lady. This is not a goal Jocelyn has any interest in. After terrorizing numerous nannies and tutors she is shuffled off to a girl’s finishing school where her first true battles in life begin, and where she also meets her first true friend, but it’s not until she gets a letter from the late Captain James Hook asking her to avenge his death (the tic-toc croc finally got him) that the adventure she always dreamed of can begin.

We’ve seen several incarnations of the Peter Pan story that James Barrie originally penned at the turn of the century, the 1953 Disney version is often a child’s first exposure to the story of the boy who would never grow up, and there have also been several prequels to the story ranging from the abysmal film Pan to the rather good book series Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, but we haven’t seen much in the way of sequels to this classic tale. Steven Spielberg took a crack at it with his 1991 film Hook which dealt with the idea of Peter Pan growing up (I am not a fan of this movie as it pretty much missed all that makes Peter Pan such a great and tragic character), and there was a forgettable Disney animated sequel in 2002 called Return to Neverland, but now we have Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz; a fun and rousing adventure story with the simple premise, “What if Captain Hook had a daughter?

When a giant raven brings Jocelyn to Neverland this is her big chance to have the adventure she always dreamed about, and maybe make her lost father proud. Of course reality and fantasy collide in interesting ways as Jocelyn finds that pirating isn’t as easy she thought it would be, especially when the crew she gets is even less experienced than she is. One of the crew is called “One Armed Jack” who clearly just has one of his perfectly good arms stuck behind his back so as to seem more piratey. Another of Jocelyn's crew has two eye patches because if "one patch is fearsome, two patches is doubly so." With this crew of misfits, along with her father’s old bosun’s mate Mister Smee, she sets sail track down the tic-toc croc. Hilarity ensues.


One of the charming elements of this book is the narrator who clearly hates children and is begrudgingly telling this story, "I don't care for children, in general, but if you'll back up a bit and try not to breathe on me, I might be persuaded to tell you the whole tale," but it’s the spunky Jocelyn that will grab you heart and have you flying through the pages to see how she will figure her way out of one predicament after another.

Now one may wonder, “What about Peter Pan?” and he does appear in this story, but more as am uninvited guest who Jocelyn finds to be completely irritating and useless. Many people don’t know or forget that Peter Pan’s ability to not "grow up" hinges on his inability to remember much beyond the moment he is in. This Neverland Amnesia, as Heidi Schulz calls it, is what allows Peter to remain young at heart for it is our memories and experiences that make us grow emotionally. This is why I’ve always considered Peter Pan to be a tragic figure and something the author of this book nails perfectly. I’d certainly rather hang out with Jocelyn and her oddball friends than Peter and his Lost Boys.

The book's target audience is middle school kids, but anyone in the mood for a good laugh will get a kick out of this story, for if you are the type of person who likes narcissistic mermaids, cannibals hung up on dinner etiquette, titanic struggles with the most fearsome clock based monster ever created, all led by a spunky heroine, than you should check out Hook’s Revenge. I simply loved it.


Note: This book also has some great illustrations by John Hendrix

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