HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Swiss Family Robinson
Author: Johann Wyss
Publisher: Dover Publications, reprinted in 2001
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Independent reading level ages 10+ but suitable for anyone
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Wyss, Johann. The Swiss Family Robinson (originally published in 1813; our edition was published in 1960 by Dell Publishing Co. Inc., 750 Third Ave., New York City, NY 10017). I had done this book as a bedtime read aloud to our boys. However, the one that I did was a “Junior Illustrated Classics” type of edition, truncated for the benefit of younger readers with shorter attention spans. Those types of books may have their place, but now that I done the full version as an after-lunch family read aloud, there is no comparison. So much interesting and important material is left out of the abridgement, especially the fact that Mr. Robinson is a minister and that the whole family sought to maintain their religious faith while stranded for around ten years on a deserted island. There is very little objectionable–a couple of references to tobacco use and to drinking homemade wine.
Most everyone is somewhat familiar with the general story so I will dispense with a synopsis and simply say that I highly recommend the book. So do several others. Hans Bluedorn in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, wrote, “This book is one of my mother’s favorites. The whole book is an example of children obedient to their parents, and the benefits of hard work and self-reliance.” In fact, the book was written to encourage young men to obey their parents and learn how to work hard. And to confirm this, Laurie Bluedorn (Hans’s mother) listed it among “My Favorite Books to Read Aloud,” calling it a cross between shipwrecked family and nature journal. We have seen several times the Walt Disney movie taken from the book. It follows the original plot pretty well, although with some major deviations, and is enjoyable.
After finishing the book, we watched a newer Hallmark Home Entertainment video Stranded said to be an “updated story” that is “based on” and “adapted from” (I originally mistyped “adapated” but maybe I really meant “addlepated”) the book Swiss Family Robinson. Fiddlesticks! It was a major disappointment after reading the book. The characters are all wrong, the plot bears less than a 42nd-cousin resemblance to the original, and leave it to “family friendly” Hallmark to include two usages of the “d” word in a film supposedly based on a book that had no bad language whatever. Otherwise, the Hallmark movie is really not all that terrible, but it would have been better if it had been entitled “The Smith Family Stranded” or something like that without any connection to the book at all. The book is infinitely better!