What Makes a Fairy Tale Endure

All children, except one, grow up. ”
                                                            Peter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie

This is the first line from my most favorite children’s story--Peter Pan.  I have always loved the cocky little boy with a “shortish name” and the funny address “second to the right, and straight on till morning.”  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read this beloved classic…as a child, as a mother and now a grandmother.  When I was little I dreamed of flying off to Neverland with the Pan and imagining what it would be like to see the Lost Boys and Hook and of course everyone’s favorite fairy Tinker Bell.

What is it about the story of Peter Pan that endures all these years after J.M. Barrie penned the original in 1911?  I’m not the first person to write something inspired by the tales of Peter Pan and I won’t be the last.  What makes this fairy tale timeless and relevant more than a century later?

I believe the secret lies in the innocent charm of Peter Pan's enduring youth, his invincibility and endless quest for adventure.  And, too, his boyish conceit.  He really is to this day just too adorable.  He steals the hearts of young girls, and makes adult women either want to mother him or wish they were young again. 

I’ve mentioned before that the spark for writing SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT came from a dream… one about Wendy.  I awoke wondering what became of the girl who had to grow up? 

I felt young again as I brought Wendy to the page, this time from a different perspective.  In SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT, Wendy is a ninety year-old woman living in a converted nursery in London who believes she is Peter Pan’s Wendy.  Even as an old woman, Wendy's faith in magic, the Neverland, and Peter remained as immutable as the stars.  Wendy had grown up--had become quite old-- yet she'd kept the innocence and joy of youth alive in her heart. 

Years ago when I wrote the book, my mother lay dying in the room next to my office at home. She had cancer and it had been my honor to nurse her. I didn’t realize it at the time, but writing the novel was my personal way of coping with my mother’s final days. As one reviewer wrote: "While the original Peter Pan story revolved around Peter's attempt to delay Wendy's transition to womanhood (he took the children on her last night in the nursery), in Second Star we find Peter Pan (the Guardian of the Dead and the Lost Souls) is pivotal to the now aging Wendy's transition to the next life - which as the book suggests, may also be in the Never Land."

Only years later, when I revised SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT, could I see in retrospect what I had not realized while writing the book: the parallels between the fictional story of Wendy's transition to the next life and the reality of my mother’s anticipation of death.

One of my favorite lines in the book comes from Wendy telling the heroine, Faye, a story about how Tinker Bell had given what-for to a sulking Wendy.

"Whatever it was inside of me, whatever kernel deep within that enabled me to believe in fairies, in Peter, in the Neverland itself, this was my source of strength. No one could ever take that away from me. As long as I believed, no matter where I was or with whom, I'd always belong. Because I was at home in my own heart." Wendy reached out to cup Faye's cheek in her palm. "Knowing that I have a fairy on my shoulder, I have nothing to fear."                 -Second Star to the Right

Like Wendy, my mother's eyes could sparkle with mirth and she'd love to have a little fun. It brought me comfort to write the ending of the book. By the time I finished it, my mother had passed. In retrospect, I wonder if perhaps she was the fairy on my shoulder. 

Maybe we all need a little magic in our lives. To keep the innocence and joy of youth in our hearts--especially during times of stress.  Even if you don’t believe in fairies I hope you'll entertain the possibilities of stars while reading SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT.

CLICK HERE to watch a video about why this novel is so special to me.  



  1. Christmas came today !!! I received my book - Second Star To The Right - I can hardly wait to open it and start reading. Thank you Mary Alice for writing such amazing, encouraging books.

  2. Hi Mary Alice, I am a lifelong reader of your books and didn't know about this one! My dear friend recently gifted me with "Summer Girls" and I am looking forward to reading it! She said it was great! Did you see "BLACKFISH"??


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All the best,
Mary Alice