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Treasure Island

The granddaddy of kids' adventures -- a classic.
Parents recommend

What parents need to know

Educational value

Gives a picture of the times and of sailing ships.

Positive messages

Some casual racism, typical, if mild, for the times in which the book was written and set. Otherwise the messages are all positive, about the value of honesty, hard work, and standing by your word.

Positive role models

The heroes are models of rectitude: Jim even spurns an offer to escape what seems like certain death and likely torture because he has given his word. This rectitude is contrasted with the pirates' dishonesty, selfishness, drunkenness, and lack of sense and decency.


Plenty of fighting, with many deaths and injuries, by sword, knife, gun, and being trampled by a horse. A boy kills a man with pistols.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Plenty of drinking of rum and other spirits, and quite a bit of drunkenness, which is despised by the heroes, though Jim, underage by today's standards, drinks some alcohol, too. Also, lots of tobacco, smoked in a pipe and chewed.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a pirate adventure and, as you'd expect, has plenty of violence, though nothing excessive, overly graphic, or gratuitous. But you will never find a better model of a brave and honest hero than Jim Hawkins.

What's the story?

When an old pirate staying at his family's seaside inn dies, young Jim Hawkins discovers that he left behind a map showing the location of buried pirate treasure. When Jim shows it to the local squire, he buys and outfits a ship and, with Jim and the local doctor, they set sail to seek the treasure. But the dead pirate's shipmates, led by the charming and magnetic Long John Silver, want the treasure too, and will stop at nothing to get it -- including infiltrating the crew.

Is it any good?


Reading this greatest of all children's adventure tales will make you realize how low so much of children's literature has sunk. This has everything you'd want in a book for kids: a mesmerizing story, brilliantly literary writing style, terrific characters (including one of the greatest characters in literature, the charming villain Long John Silver), rich settings, and the most stalwart and upstanding values presented in the most attractive and appealing way. Jim's bravery and daring are inseparable from his honesty and rectitude. This ordinary boy who rises to the occasion with grit and gallantry makes virtue the essential aspect of heroism. There are few moments in literature as thrilling as when Jim turns down a chance to escape torture and death because he has given his word.

Stevenson, who obviously had great respect for his young readers, doesn't pull his punches when it comes to vocabulary and sentence structure -- young readers may need some help. But the ideal introduction to this classic is as a read-aloud -- don't miss the chance to share this with your children. There are a gazillion versions: stay away from the various adaptations and abridgments and give your children the gift of the original, preferably in a beautifully illustrated edition. You can't do better than N. C. Wyeth, if you can find it in a used bookstore or online. In more than 125 years this book hasn't dated at all -- it's just as exciting and relevant as ever, and its bracingly clear morality is a tonic in troubled times.

From the Book:
The paper had been sealed in several places with a thimble by way of seal; the very thimble, perhaps, that I had found in the captain's pocket. The doctor opened the seals with great care, and there fell out the map of an island, with latitude and longitude, soundings, names of hills and bays and inlets, and every particular that would be needed to bring a ship to a safe anchorage upon its shores. It was about nine miles long and five across, shaped, you might say, like a fat dragon standing up, and had two fine land-locked harbours, and a hill in the centre part marked "The Spy-glass." There were several additions of a later date, but above all, three crosses of red ink--two on the north part of the island, one in the southwest--and beside this last, in the same red ink, and in a small, neat hand, very different from the captain's tottery characters, these words: "Bulk of treasure here."

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the book's classic status. It has been steadily in print for over 125 years -- why? What has made it last?

  • Can it still appeal to modern kids? What makes a book a classic?

  • Have you read any modern books that you think will still be in print a century from now? What do they have that other books you enjoy do not?

Book details

Author:Robert Louis Stevenson
Illustrator:N. C. Wyeth
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Grosset & Dunlap
Publication date:November 14, 1883
Number of pages:302

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Parent of a 4 and 7 year old Written byhannahrose April 28, 2011

Great for all ages!

Boys and girls will love this book about pirates and treasure and everything high seas! Adults will love it, too!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 10 years old November 15, 2009


I loved this. I think it is best for kids aged 10 and up. Not because of reading content (considering how young you can be nowadays for this sort of violence) but for vocabulary and reading level. Why? This book uses old fashioned language and sailing words, plus it is slower to start then more recent books.
What other families should know
Educational value
Teen, 14 years old Written byMikaylaaMadisonn August 1, 2009
This book is awful. Completely boring all the way through. It is the worst book I have ever read, and that is saying a lot.