I don’t remember when I first heard Treasure Island. I assume my father read it to me when I was quite young. However it came about, the story has stuck with me my entire life. I still think it is probably the greatest adventure story ever written, and Robert Louis Stevenson has remained my favourite and most influential author. So, when I heard that my wife, a primary school teacher, was presenting the book to her class, I was naturally enthusiastic.
But. After reading the book for the first time, she decided the book was too difficult for her nine year olds. Too difficult? I couldn’t have been more than nine when I first heard it. But then, I had the story presented one-to-one. Every time I didn’t understand a word, I could just ask. It’s different when you have 30 children. And the book does contain a lot of language that is either archaic or obscure to kids of today. So, my wife settled on a happy medium. She got a modern abridgement of the book which she read to her children, but for various sections she would switch over to the original Stevenson for his wonderful descriptions. Thus the kids got the action-packed plot, told in a way they could understand, along with the fabulous descriptions of Black Dog, Billy Bones, and Long John Silver. Even these little sections contained plenty of new vocabulary for the kids.
So are kids still drawn to the story? Well, according to my wife, her kids now constantly and somewhat randomly say to one-another: ‘One more step Mr. Hands and I’ll blow your brains out. Dead men don’t bite, you know.’ It’s one of the great moments in the story. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, run out and buy the book today!