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Saturday, 18 February 2017

Treasure Island

Usborne Young Reading version of Treasure Island
Based on the story of Robert Louis Stevenson
Retelling: Angela Wilkes
Adaption: Sam Taplin
Illustrations: Peter Dennis
Publisher: Usborne, 2007

Tonight I really enjoyed reading this adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island to my seven year old boy Alf. This adaptation is part of series two in the Usborne Young Reading scheme, and is aimed at 'readers who are growing in confidence'. Part of a reading scheme this book may be, and indeed Alf has read many from this series through school, but actually they're great for adults to read aloud as bedtime stories too, especially condensed classics such as this one, as I think we're still a year or more away from his interest and concentration being such as to listen to the real thing chapter by chapter, night by night. 

This took me about 20-25minutes to read aloud at a good steady pace, with interjection time for questions and elaboration. The main point of departure from the novel, and most sanitised part of this classic, is the absence of the 'black spot' (chapter 1, The captain's secret), which was a shame I felt, as this pirates folklore was a highlight for me in the novel. The arrival of the blind man and death of Billy Bones needed a lot of elaboration too, I felt, to bring this adaptation anyway near as gripping as the novel. Likewise Jim Hawkins hiding in the apple barrel lost all sense of fear and thrill in this version, but then, this adaptation is more of an introduction to the plot only, rather than the anything of the texture and feel of the story. It's intended for a different purpose than the novel of course, and to sustain interest (especially from the target audience of 5-8 year old boys I assume) the book moves forward fast, only a little too fast given the breadth of characters introduced. At points Alf lost track inthe whose who. In fact, this Usborne Reader feels a bit like the exposition section in The York Notes, only on speed, no wonder we both got lost. 

What we liked about this adaptation though- the graphics feel very 'classic' and the thought bubbles from characters bring foresight to characters are feeling. Alf loved the gung ho of the plot, with Jim Hawkins climbing rigging, shooting with pistols, hiding in forts and chartering row boats to save the day. The book is action packed and readable in one session, though as an early reader it is also suitable to be read alone and can be dipped in and out of with the short chapters.  The vocabulary suits slightly younger readers than Alf too, maybe 5-6, but he was interested in the pirate specific words and pirate specific code, such as the reading of the treasure map and the double bluff of Long John Silver. In all, this is a good, comforting read best placed as a one-off bedtime story when in between chapter books with the older readers (+7 years in our house). It left Alf asking ' for the real thing' tonight, which was exactly my intention. 

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