Gilligan’s Island



Book: Gilligan’s Island

Author: William Johnston

Illustrator: Robert L. Jenney

Publisher: Whitman Publishing Company, 1966


Language level: 2

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 8 and up

Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Johnston, William.  Gilligan’s Island (published in 1966 by Whitman Publishing Company, a division of Western Printing and Lithographing Company, Racine, WI).  Okay, I admit it.  I know that it’s silly, but when I was growing up, my all-time favorite television show was “Gilligan’s Island.”  And, yes, I’m old enough to have actually watched the original airings.  For anyone who doesn’t know, “Gilligan’s Island” was an American sitcom created and produced by Sherwood Schwartz for United Artists Television that aired for three seasons on the CBS network from September 26, 1964, to April 17, 1967. The show had an ensemble cast that featured Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Russell Johnson, Tina Louise, and Dawn Wells as “seven stranded castaways” who set out on “a three hour tour” from Honolulu, ran into a tropical storm, and then attempted to survive on an uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean where they were shipwrecked. Imagine my surprise when I recently learned of this “Authorized Edition based on the well-known television series.”

As the book opens, Gilligan, the Skipper (Jonas Grumby), millionaires Mr. and Mrs. Thurston (Lovie) Howell, actress Ginger Grant, Mary Ann Summers of Kansas, and the Professor (Roy Hinkley) have already been on the island for some time.  After a huge typhoon hits the area, they find a ship in the lagoon, piloted by Captain Blast of the Blast Travel Agency and Wholesale Litchi Nut Company, actually a con man, with a load of tourists headed for the resort island of Buna-Buna.  They were blown off course by the storm.  The castaways expect to be rescued, but, alas, the vessel is out of fuel and the radio was washed overboard during the typhoon.  While the Skipper, Gilligan, and the girls pretend to be Buna-Buna resort staff, the Professor tries to synthesize some fuel and Mr. Howell schemes to make money from the situation.  What will happen to the ship and its passengers?  Will the seven get rescued this time?   Or will Gilligan somehow foul everything up again?

I had originally thought that this “Authorized Edition” might tell more about the “tale of a fateful trip” and perhaps incorporate scenarios from some of the television episodes, but it has a completely new and different plot line.  There is little objectionable in the story; Gilligan does seem to use the euphemistic term “gee” a lot.  However, there is also very little sanity to the plot.  As silly as the show was, it usually made some kind of sense, however warped, whereas the book is even sillier, almost to the point of childish foolishness; but, then, it was apparently written to appeal primarily to children.  Since the television show preceded the novel, this is a case where “the movie” is actually better than the book.  At the same time, it is basically harmless, and in the end, all’s well that ends well—at least as much as is possible for the people stranded on Gilligan’s Island!

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