Treasure Island

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Treasure Island Book Poster Image
Parents recommend
Boy and pirates hunt buried treasure in thrilling adventure.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 23 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Treasure Island was first published in 1883, and the novel offers an impression of what life was like in rural England during the late 19th century, as well as some information about the conditions on sailing ships in that era.

Positive Messages

Intelligence, honor, loyalty, and sobriety will win the day.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jim is pure-hearted, smart, and honorable; he even sacrifices his own safety because he has given his word. Dr. Livesey doesn't always show the best judgment, but he cares for anyone who needs his help, including drunkards and dangerous pirates.


The story includes plenty of fighting, with many deaths and injuries by sword, knife, and gun. There is little gore, but the violence is rendered more horrifying because it's mainly seen through a boy's eyes.


There's no cursing in this book, but there is some archaic racist language: "negroes," "negress," "Mexican Indians," "half-bloods," "blacks."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

While staying at the Admiral Benbow Inn, Billy Bones consumes more rum than water, and Dr. Livesey warns him that he is ruining his health. The pirates on the Hispaniola also drink rum, brandy, wine, and other spirits, and their drunkeness adds to their threatening, unpredictable behavior. Men also smoke and chew tobacco.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6, 9, and 13-year-old Written byJayne Smith August 6, 2012

Disturbing, but classic

A lot of ship terminology. There was some very disturbing and vivid imagery that I found to be downright terrifying (pirates curses, skulls grinning, eye socket... Continue reading
Adult Written bySoulSavior23 May 19, 2020

A True Classic Adventure

This is a true classic that everyone with a love for adventure will enjoy. Though there are some racist words, lots of drinking, and a lot of violence, that’s t... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old March 6, 2015

Amazing book!

My favourite from Robert Louis Stevenson. It's a thriller! Great for any age, I read Treasure Island in a Great Illustrated Classic's version. Makes t... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byAce05 September 10, 2018

Why Treasure Island is NOT suitable for children

“It was Silver's voice, and before I had heard a dozen words, I would not have shown myself for all the world. I lay there, trembling and listening, in the... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure tales and classic books

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