Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

In order to test overdrive ebooks on my Android smartphone, I wanted to download a book I knew would be available.  I quickly decided on Treasure Island, a book I last read when I was in the 4th grade.  I was able to download the book directly on my phone using the overdrive app.  There was a bit of work up front (making sure CCRLS was the indexed library, registering with Adobe, saving my library barcode) but subsequent downloaded titles have been an absolute breeze.

Set in the 18th Century, Treasure Island is a fantastic adventure story about the recovery of pirate treasure on an uncharted island in the Caribbean.  The story begins at a modest inn in a small southwestern England village.  Young Jim Hawkins’ discovery of the map leading to the infamous pirate captain Flint’s treasure sets the wheel of destiny in motion.  The local squire, the local magistrate, and Jim agree to charter a sailing ship to find the treasure.  The two officials will serve as overseers of the excursion and Jim will serve as the ship Hispaniola’s cabin boy. Only the officers of the crew know the ship is secretly destined for the hidden pirate booty. Among the crew, Jim meets the ship’s cook, Long John Silver, a one-legged veteran of England’s naval wars of a previous decade.  Silver is taken with Jim’s ability to quickly learn all of the necessary skills of sailing at sea and the two become friends.

Unfortunately for Jim and the officers, the Hispaniola’s secret destination was uncovered by Flint’s old pirate crew and they have signed-on as the ship’s crew.  There is a mutiny as the Hispaniola arrives to the island.  Swashbuckling, treachery, and valor all ensue.

There aren’t many stereotypical characters in the story.  Often in fiction characters have predictable roles: the hero, the fool, the coward, the effete snob, the evil-for-the-sake-of-evil villain.  Most of Treasure Island’s characters are much more nuanced.  This is especially the case with Long John Silver, who according to many literary historians is the first morally ambiguous character in juvenile literature.

There are many superb elements of the story.  Like many of today’s young protagonists, Jim is intelligent, brave and resourceful.  However, at times the reader might question the logic in some of Jim’s actions.  The narrator does not expressly tell the audience whether or not Jim’s decision was wise, nor will any of the characters.  The reader will have to let the action carry out and decide for him or herself.  Stevenson’s Treasure Island has been adapted to film 40 times between 1912 and 2012.  The story stands the test of time amidst a changing society and emerging technology – just as enjoyable on my phone as on paper.

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