In the Neverland of children's literature, Peter Pan and the other characters never did grow old. They remain as full of life now as they were more than 100 years ago. When Jim Barrie wrote the story it became an instant sensation in print, on stage and on the silent screen, and royalties came pouring in to the author, who — although he loved children — had none of his own.
So when he died, James Barrie left it all to one of the earliest pediatric hospitals in London, Great Ormond Street.
Over the decades the royalties have continued to flow from remake after remake of the beloved tale. The money has helped keep Great Ormond Street on the cutting edge of pediatric care.
"James Barrie gave his copyright to the hospital and it was the most generous gift anyone could have done," hospital spokesperson, Laura Redmond told Sunday Morning contributor Elizabeth Palmer as she pointed out the plaque in Barrie's memory in the hospital chapel.
It was a gift that's helped save many young lives, but next year, the copyright on "Peter Pan" will run out and the royalties will dwindle away. The hospital organized a competition to find an author willing to write the sequel to "Peter Pan" and send Wendy and the Lost Boys, who are all grown up at the end of the first book, flying back over the rooftops of London to Neverland.
The winner was Geraldine McCaughrean.
"Of course when I got the job — oh, oh I've got to find time to write this book," she said. "I've got to really, really write the sequel to "Peter Pan," but luckily it just seized me by the heart and um, just swallowed me in."
The result is "Peter Pan in Scarlet" which was just published to critical acclaim in the press — and in the ward of Great Ormond Street hospital, where McCaughrean met long-time patient, and avid reader, Flora Edward-Few.
"Don't panic, it was good," Flora told McCaughrean.
McCaughrean said the book had to be "swashbuckling," and the "plot hinges on things Barrie loved…medical intervention."
Purists beware: Tinkerbell has been replaced, but McCaughrean has proved something that Peter himself wouldn't have believed: Grownups can return to Neverland.
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