Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Swiss Family Robinson

The Swiss Family Robinson (Puffin Classics)The Swiss Family Robinson – Johann David Wyss
Evan’s ESS = 6 out of 10
Erin’s ESS =  out of 10
Content = (Minor Adult Content, Aggressive Animals, Disastrous Falls, Male Donkeys Called by Their Other Name)

Why: Ugh, what happened to Roberta, coconut bombs, family animal races, and pirate alarms?  Seriously, how did they not get incorporated into the novel? Someone get Johann David Wyss on the phone!

Shipwrecked off the cost of a tropical island, the Robinsons must forge an unlikely partnership with nature and circumstance to ensure their survival.  They must utilize every bit of their intellect to conquer, build, gather, plant, and tame.  Not only does the family survive, but they find a way to thrive, while at the same time constructing an epic tree house.  But, like anyone who’s ever spent time marooned on a deserted island knows, the next catastrophe is always right around the corner... 

Okay, so it took some time to adjust to the fact that the novel doesn’t contain certain really cool elements included in the Disney movie.  Less of the action and more of the categorizing every specific plant and animal species on the island, which as it turns out, was quite extensive. We can appreciate the fact that the novel was written as a journal and that given a similar fate, our own journal might attempt to capture much of the same information.  Unfortunately, the plot struggled to hold our attention. 

It was pleasant to read about a family that actually respected one another and pulled together for a common purpose, however, certain character talents were a bit hard to believe.  The dad was pretty much master of everything, whether it was lassoing animals, identifying countless edible plants, or whittling little whatevers.  The mom was a world class gardener and chef – she figured out how to make a porcupine soup that was apparently to die for.  Plus, the children needed no more than one or two tries before they were experts.  Fine, we might be over dramatizing things just a bit, but the Robinsons were more a cross between the Crocodile Hunter and Survivorman than a family of missionaries.

Okay, let’s get to what’s really bothering us...  How could the Robinsons decide to live in the cave over the tree house (As readers, you have the “Two Bibliomanics Iron Clad Promise” that the aforementioned fact isn’t central to the plot)?  We’ve heard all the problems related to personal safety and the other immaterial arguments.  We still want to know how someone could possibly not decide to live in a tree house if they had the opportunity.  Where’s the romanticism in that?  At least tell us where’s the awesomeness?

We’re a bit all over the place on this review, so in summary: glad we read it, but it could have been better.  Thank you.


  1. One thing that kept bothering me about the father was that he turned every teeny tiny little thing into a moral object lesson. I'm all for moral discipline, but his attitude bordered on repressive at times. Or maybe our culture is just so far removed from that type of child-rearing that it appears striking.

  2. Ahh, I'm always sad when I get into a book after a beloved movie. The picture is already in my head...

    And I'm totally living in the tree house. Duh. lol.

  3. I liked this book quite a lot, actually, but I'm a sucker for "make-do" scenarios. And, given the current state of my own home, I'd be happy to live in either a cave or a tree house.

    (For more information on my house and other things, visit my blog: It will rock off your face and the faces of everyone around you. You've been warned.)

  4. It's sad for me to admit this, but I didn't watch the Disney movie OR read the book...

    Where should I start??

  5. BookGeek,
    Unless you're really, really bored I wouldn't recommend either... maybe the movie. Unless you plan on being marooned on a tropical deserted island anytime soon, I'd skip the book.