Introduced by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Sterling Hundley
A classic tale of heroism, piracy and adventure that has never been equalled – with an introduction by Michael Morpurgo.
‘I remember him as if it were yesterday, as he came plodding to the inn door, his sea-chest following behind him in a handbarrow.’ Young Jim Hawkins is at once terrified and captivated by the rum-soaked sea-dog who takes up lodgings at his father’s inn, the Admiral Benbow. But after discovering a treasure map in the sailor’s trunk, Jim embarks on a perilous journey of treachery, heroism and piracy aboard the ship Hispaniola.
In 1882, the year before Treasure Island was published, Stevenson lamented that romantic tales had become eclipsed by realism: ‘English people of the present day are apt, I know not why, to look somewhat down on incident … It is thought clever to write a novel with no story at all, or at least with a very dull one.’ His answer was to write an adventure story that would become ubiquitous, a novel that would not only set a course for future children’s literature, but also conjure characters, motifs and language that would become part of our collective imagination. Indeed, a pirate without a buried treasure and a wooden leg, a talking parrot and ‘pieces of eight’, is no pirate at all.
Nurtured by Stevenson’s rebellious nature, the text is informed by an air of moral ambiguity – an air that becomes manifest in the seductive charm of Long John Silver. As Michael Morpurgo writes in his new introduction, ‘Like Jim, we are at first entertained and entranced by Silver, then appalled and entranced again.’ Silver’s moral pragmatism flew in the face of the stale fiction for boys that preceded Stevenson’s landmark work. The text’s darkling nature is captured in Sterling Hundley’s enthralling illustrations, which convey both the vivid excitement of Jim’s travels and the claustrophobic terror he feels as the journey begins to go awry. Also included is the treasure map drawn by Stevenson. Rarely printed in colour, the different inks represent various characters’ annotations. The blocked, skull-emblazoned slipcase is a reminder of the pirates’ treachery, the Jolly Roger and the chilling refrain, ‘Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest / Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!’
Click here to read a blog post by the illustrator, Sterling Hundley.
With a deft dab of description, with a turn of phrase or a tone of voice, Robert Louis Stevenson brings everyone in Treasure Island to life: Jim Hawkins, Long John Silver, Dr Livesey, Ben Gunn and the rest. Each and every one is both plausible and complex. Through Jim’s wide eyes—I was Jim when I first read this book, saw all of it, lived it, through him—we see the Jekyll and Hyde in Long John Silver. Like Jim, we are at first entertained and entranced by Silver, then appalled and entranced again. The thread of the story is seamless because no one is pulling the strings except the characters themselves; the author just goes along with them, or so it seems. It takes life so convincingly. We believe at once in poor Ben Gunn, live with Jim as he overhears murderous conspiracy while hidden in the barrel of apples on board the Hispaniola, and as he endures danger and fear with his friends behind the stockade on Treasure Island. As for place, I know the Admiral Benbow inn, where the book begins, as well as I do my own village pub. I can picture every nook and cranny of it. I know the Hispaniolaem. as well as if I’d sailed on her—from the exact location of the barrel of apples in which Jim hides, to how the sails are set and how the lantern swings below in the cabin, how she creaks and groans at sea or riding at anchor. And Treasure Island I know like I know the island of Bryher in the Isles of Scilly, where I’ve spent my summer holidays for over thirty years. (I’m sure Treasure Island is why I go there.) Jim Hawkins has taken me to Treasure Island and shown me the lie of the land, the marshy groves, the stockade on the hill. I know the entire coastline as Jim takes the helm of the Hispaniola, and single-handedly sails the ship. All utterly incredible, but made credible.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–94) was born in Edinburgh, and led a peripatetic existence, dictated by his precarious health, moving between Scotland, America, Europe and finally the South Pacific. He trained as an engineer and for the law, but began to publish essays after being called to the bar in 1875. His first book was the travelogue An Inland Voyage, published in 1876. He married in 1880, and it was while he sketched a map for his stepson that he was inspired to write one of his most famous novels, Treasure Island (1883). Publication of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kidnapped (1886) sealed his success; he continued writing prolifically until the day of his death in Samoa in 1894.
Michael Morpurgo, OBE, is a former Children’s Laureate and best-selling author of over 130 books for children, including The Butterfly Lion (1996), Kensuke’s Kingdom (1999) and Private Peaceful (2003). His highly acclaimed novel War Horse (1982) was adapted for the stage in 2007, and released as a film directed by Steven Spielberg in 2012. Morpurgo’s most recent novel is Listen to the Moon (2014).
Sterling Hundley is an illustrator and painter. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Art and Design in 1998 from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he is now an Associate Professor. A recipient of multiple medals from the Society of Illustrators, New York, Hundley was selected as one of eight artists to participate in the State of the Art: Illustration 100 Years After Howard Pyle exhibition at the Delaware Art Museum in 2012. The exhibition served as a contemporary lens on the historical influence of Pyle, whose star pupil, N. C. Wyeth, created the original illustrations for Treasure Island.
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Review by drefcinski on 16th Jun 2015
"This is the perfect gift for all parents, in the hope that they'll read it to their children. These sentences are fun to say--Yo ho ho! Shiver my timbers!--and the plot is so tight every chapter ends ..." [read more]
Review by AbbyDaddy on 11th Apr 2015
"In a word: WOW. This is a gorgeous edition of Treasure Island. The artwork is brilliant and captures the mood perfectly (almost like watching stills from a movie) and the illustrations contain a sense..." [read more]
Review by JNoord on 14th Jan 2015
"It was treasure island and books like it that introduced me to reading as a child , it's a habit that has given me pleasure all my life. I was expecting something special in this copy and I wasn't dis..." [read more]