A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure novel Treasure Island, first published in 1883, is full of swashbuckling action. It's the original pirate story, featuring drunken mutineers, a secret map, and buried treasure. There's some archaic racist language ("negroes," "blacks," "Mexican Indians"), and a good deal of violence (plenty of fighting, with many deaths and injuries by sword, knife, and gun), though most of the wounds and deaths are not described graphically, but these events are upsetting to the heroic young narrator, Jim Hawkins. Treasure Island has been adapted for film a few times over the years, including the star-studded 1934 version with Wallace Beery as Long John Silver, a live-action Disney version from 1950, and even a Muppet version made in the '90s.
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What's the story?
Robert Louis Stevenson's classic pirate adventure TREASURE ISLAND begins in the west of England, where an old sea captain is drinking his life away at the Hawkins family's inn, the Admiral Benbow. Among the old captain's things, young Jim Hawkins discovers a map showing the location of buried pirate treasure. When Jim shows it to the local squire, the squire buys and outfits a ship and, with Jim and the local doctor, hires a crew and they all set sail on the Hispaniola to seek the treasure. Once the party is at sea, Jim learns that at least some of the crew are former shipmates of the captain: pirates who will do anything to get their hands on the map and the treasure.
Is it any good?
Robert Louis Stevenson's most well-known book defines the classic adventure story. Treasure Island comes complete with a lionhearted young hero, ruthless pirates, mutiny, and buried treasure. Though some of the language in this 1883 novel can seem old-fashioned, and occasionally racist, there's plenty of suspense and swashbuckling battles to keep readers engaged. Equally appealing is the way the author develops characters and the relationship between Jim Hawkins and the one-legged Long John Silver.
Silver is a complex character, with measured judgment and superior intelligence, and Stevenson's descriptions of his appearance and manner of speaking created the mold for just about every fictional pirate that came after him. Likewise, elements of the book -- including the treasure map marked with an "X," the song "Dead Man's Chest (Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum)," and parrots -- show the way Stevenson invented the popular image of a pirate. This is an important book and a thrilling one.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes a book a "classic." What made Treasure Island stand the test of time?
What's the attitude toward good guys and bad guys in Treasure Island'? In which category would you put Long John Silver?
Treasure Island was one of the first pirate adventure books. What things in this book were used in later pirate stories?
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