Peter Pan was my favourite Disney movie as a kid (until my parents brought home Aladdin), but I had never read the book that the movie was based on until earlier this month. I found it a lot of fun to read, and I definitely intend to read it to my kids (if and when I have any, of course).
Some elements of Peter Pan definitely hearken from an earlier age: Wendy is just delighted to be able to spend nearly all of her time cooking and cleaning for a tribe of unruly boys, as any self-respecting young woman would be; Peter and the Lost Boys–along with John and Michael–kill pirates, actually kill them; and the representations of the Indians are pretty heavily stereotyped. But the sense of adventure and excitement in the book are still strong, as the characters fly around Neverland and get mixed up in all kinds of fun and trouble.
The writing is quite clever at times. I love how Mrs. Darling is described as having one kiss hidden in the corner of her mouth that you could never quite get to, no matter how hard you tried, and Nana, the children’s St. Bernard nanny, is anthropomorphized in a very amusing way.
Overall, I’d recommend reading Peter Pan, and reading it to children, but there are parts of it that will need some context and explanation so that they don’t convey the wrong ideas.
I also read Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and while it had some amusing parts, some fun concepts (babies are little birds from an island who get sent to parents to grow into babies, and children’s personalities depend on what kind of bird they were), and some emotion (Peter Pan returning to his mother, hoping she has kept the window open for him to fly back in), it didn’t, ultimately, have much purpose or story. It feels much more like a small collection of semi-related stories without any real sense of direction. That isn’t necessarily a problem, but it makes the whole thing feel like less of a book somehow, if you know what I mean.