Book Reports: The Swiss Family Robinson

Student: Eli G.

Edited by:  Sami R. and Michelle G.  One of the many book reports done by Jefferson students.

Book: The Swiss Family Robinson

Author: Johann David Wyss

Published: 1812

Genre: Adventure Fiction

The Robinson family starts on a voyage for a new life, whilst a dreadful storm leaves them stranded. They come ashore on an uncharted island.  Now the Robinsons must surmount many hardships as they try to survive.

A book that has been endured for centuries, The Swiss Family Robinson contains great detail and thought pertaining to every word. It is full of compelling adventures and humorous happenings.  In 1812, much of the world was still uncharted, making it easy to create imaginative islands for new pilgrims to become shipwrecked upon. There is meaning behind all of the adventures in The Swiss Family Robinson. The book gives young readers ideas on how the world could be if they use their bravery and ingenuity.

In 1812, there was a naval war happening between Great Britain and the United States.  The war could have caused Johann Wyss to begin thinking about ships and what might happen to passengers on-board them.  His book shows how anyone can adapt to new surroundings and change them for the better.  For example, when the father of the family, William, first sets his foot on the island, he thinks, “Casting my eyes despairingly around, I became gradually aware that our position was by no means hopeless,” (page 3). Soon afterward, the family finds food and shelter, and all the things they could hope to have on a desolate island.  This circumstance is like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Harry arrives at Hogwarts to find new and sometimes frightening things there. He adapts, attains good friends, and creates a comfortable place for himself. When the Robinson family finally has a chance to get off the island, because of the wonderful place they created from virtually nothing, most of them decide not to leave.

The Swiss Family Robinson shows the reader that the unknown can be bright and adventurous. The book in many ways resembles a piece of art created by Jackson Pollack called Convergence.  In this painting, there are an abundance of colors: black, many shades of blue, red, yellow, and both the colors of white and tan.  There are the minutest details where Pollock directed his brush to splash some paint here and there, details that one would not instantly notice, but details that make the painting what it is.  This goes with how Wyss wrote his book, with extreme detail and with every word contributing to the picture of beauty and danger.  There are also layers within the picture, for personality, and layers that give the painting its character, its complexity.

In The Swiss Family Robinson, ordinary people survive by working together as a family. In the painting by Pollock, there are six main colors, and in the book, there are six main characters. Father is the leader and the source of aptitude, which is like the color black in the background.  Mother is the cook, and caretaker, who is like the color white that is with all the other colors, but doesn’t overpower them.  Fritz helps Father to build and hunt. He is the color tan in the painting because it mixes with black and complements it the most.  Ernest is the most intelligent of the children, and meddles in everyone’s affairs. He is the color red because it is splashed in streaks across the entire painting.  Jack is the most energetic. He is the color yellow because it is in blotches everywhere in the painting. Franz is the youngest, and he is the color blue because it accompanies white all over the painting, just like Franz accompanies his mother.

Wyss ties the book together with people using creativity to survive. They build a tree house, and a bridge for the animals. They use honey to tan animal skins and make a drink to put in casks. They train an ostrich named Master Whirlwind to ride like a horse. Father makes felt for a hat, dyes it red, and makes it waterproof with India-rubber. He also builds a mill and makes porcelain dishes. Fritz makes a canoe covered with dogfish, and he makes hooks out of thistles. All of these many things help the Robinson family to survive far away from civilization on an island.

There are many reasons why The Swiss Family Robinson is an “A-list” book. The first, being that it is written for the pleasurable reading of children and the second that it encourages adventurousness. It also has endured the harsh tormenting by papers such as this review.  It has even contributed in young children wanting to explore, which in turn becomes the exploring of exploring of the world.  However, the most important reason is that it tells people to live courageously, and make the best of what they have.

Word Count: 788

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