Our first 2019 Reading Challenge from Professional Book Nerds’ List is here!
Fallon and I completed: Children’s Book You’ve Never Read
We both chose adventure novels, perhaps inspired by our own children who are about the same ages. Did you read a children’s book recently that you would recommend? Please share with us!
The Swiss Family Robinson
By Johann Wyss
Synopsis: The six members of the Robinson family survive an awful storm and are abandoned by the rest of the crew when their ship wrecks. Luckily, they float to a nearby island and never see the cowards that left them behind. Luckily, they find ample food supplies, including sugar-cane and potatoes, so they never feel the pangs of hunger during their 10 years of isolation. Luckily, they train and domesticate several types of wild animal to ease their labor. Luckily, they have shelter to get them through monsoon season (including a cave that they are able to chip windows into so they feel less like they are living in a cave). The Robinson family, from Switzerland, are lucky to be alive.
Review: I’m sorry, but what you’re about to read is not positive. I have never seen the Disney movie, so if your nostalgia of this story is connected to your memories of playing make-believe after seeing that movie, I cannot relate. I can understand as a novel written in the 18th century with many translations into and from many languages, that things get lost. My initial reaction when our protagonist (of course, the head of the family, the father) first introduces his family, he named all four of his sons, but referred to their mother as “his wife”. This continues throughout the entire novel, never once saying her name. Per Wikipedia, I see she is given the name of Elizabeth, which possibly happened in another translated version. In the version I read however, her only identifier seems to be her relationship to William. Even the two dogs, orphaned monkey, and adopted Jackal are given names. Other than that, I just don’t think this story has aged well. When it was written, and people had a very small world view; the world Wyss created would have been exciting and exotic, but I couldn’t help but “pshaw” that the island had monkeys, jackals, kangaroos, flamingoes, buffaloes, eagles, and elephants to name a few. And I can overlook one or two things, like finding a potato farm ready to harvest, without it ruining the whole experience. I wish I would have read Robinson Crusoe instead, which I still might do so I know whether to recommend it to my kids.
By Robert Louis Stevenson, adapted by Deidre S. Laiken
Synopsis: Jim Hawkins’ family runs a small inn, mostly catering to sailors. When his father dies, an old man seems to move into the inn, babbling about pirates and lost treasure. When Jim finds a treasure map, he and his friends decide to follow the map to recover treasure. He must outwit pirates and wild men in order to survive his adventure at sea.
Review: This adaptation is very fun and age appropriate. It is somewhat scary, just enough to be exciting, but not so much to scare children. My 6 year old has read this book at least twice and was not scared. In fact, he’s the reason I decided to read it. I’ve never read the full-length, unabridged version, so I cannot tell you the differences. However, I think if you want the broad strokes, this version by Laiken is pretty good.
Join us for our next challenge: Book by an author of a different race, ethnicity or religion than your own. Select your own book and then share what you read with us!