by Robert Louis Stevenson
This classic tale of pirates and buried treasure has left its mark on our culture and the imagination of youth. I suppose with girls it may be a bit different than with boys ... but the image of a one-legged pirate with a parrot on his shoulder and the song "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest, yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum" go right to the heart of my memories of childhood pretend-games. This is a tale with treasure maps, mutinies, battles, close scrapes, and people who actually say "Shiver my timbers." One of the characters is actually called "Long John Silver." So you have an idea of what a classic this is?
The story came about when Stevenson, a Brit, married an American woman who had a son from a previous marriage. One day he and his stepson made a map to an imaginary "treasure island" together, and Stevenson decided to write a story to go with it. The story ended up becoming a big hit and changing adventure tales forever. It has also been filmed several times, including an oddly faithful futuristic adaptation in Disney's Treasure Planet.
It begins with a boy of about 13 years, named Jim Hawkins, the son of an innkeeper on the coast of England. Into the inn comes a sickly and paranoid old sailor who turns out to be Billy Bones, an ex-pirate, who has run away with the map to the island where the late great pirate Flint buried his treasure. Soon Billy Bones' ex-shipmates show up looking for the map, and the terror of them literally kills the old salt. They're nasty fellows, to be sure--a pasty man missing two fingers, named Black Dog, and a really sinister blind guy named Pew. But they're the least of Jim Hawkins' worries.
His father having died within days of Billy Bones' death, he has to protect his mother and their business from the pirates that are after him--so he goes to the local doctor and magistrate, Dr. Livesey, for help, and Livesey turns to the squire (the nobleman in charge of the district), and together with some of the squire's servants they fit out a ship and hire a crew and set out for the Treasure Island to get the loot for themselves.
BUT, wouldn't you know it, it turns out that most of the crew just happens to consist of Captain Flint's old crew, and their ringleader is the ship's cook, Long John Silver, affectionately called Barbecue by the crew. And yes, he has one leg and goes about on a wooden crutch and keeps a parrot that sometimes sits on his shoulder, and as soon as they get to the island Silver kills those members of the crew who refuse to join his conspiracy and starts to go after Jim and his friends. From then on it's all plot and counterplot, betrayal and deception, battle and search for buried treasure, and everyone on a razor's edge between killing and being killed.
R.L. Stevenson did not live a long or healthy life, but his writing has a lot of energy and charm and his characters are well drawn, and it really is quite an adventure. Jim is a young hero who will appeal to many of you in a similar way to Harry Potter, as he finds courage within himself and pulls off a few magic tricks of his own.
Recommended Age: 10+
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