The Survival Guide: A Review of The Swiss Family Robinson

swiss family robinson

My definition of an “attractive” book goes like this:

  1. The book must be heavy and thick.
  2. It must have small letters.
  3. It cannot have pictures.

Give me a book that meets those standards and I’ll read it right away. This definition is probably the reason why I read The Swiss Family Robinson the minute it was offered to me: it was thick, filled with small letters, and had no drawings. If that’s not your definition of the most awesome-looking book in the universe, and if you are turned off by The Swiss Family Robinson, that’s OK. I’m here to try to convince you to read it.

The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann Wyss, is a story about a Swiss family who is shipwrecked on an island. As Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, Fritz, Jack, and Ernest discover how to survive, you are transported to a faraway place where you hunt birds, ride ostriches, and dig up roots to survive.

Survival-related books hypnotize me. Sometimes I wish I were an explorer discovering how to live in a difficult land. The Swiss Family Robinson is a survival story, so naturally I loved it right away. For me, depending on plants and animals is so much more exciting than depending on electricity and machines. So if you’re like me in that sense, you’ll find this book particularly interesting. I found one of the most striking excerpts the one about the manioc root. Johann Wyss describes how to grate it, dry it, and cook it so that it becomes cassava bread. I have probably read that page five times already! This book was inspired by Robinson Crusoe, another survival story, so that is probably where he got some of his info concerning survival.

While reading this book, I felt a strange sort of ecstasy: I was both relaxed and jumpy. I felt like sleeping besides the fireside after a long, tiring day. I felt like dancing insanely to some music. It was so satisfying to know that the Swiss Family Robinson had figured out, say, how to churn butter without the barrel. But I couldn’t sit back and enjoy any one page for long, because the back of my mind would be screaming, “What next?! What next?!” It felt like swimming in happiness.

This book was wonderful, though it might seem strange at first because it is told from the father’s perspective. Usually children’s books are told from a child’s perspective, so reading this book was a new experience for me. The language however, might not be so easy to read as it was written in the 1800s, making it more challenging to understand. But please, don’t hesitate to try. Besides, who knows when knowing how to bake cassava bread, make candles out of myrtle berries, or transform gourds into plates might come in handy!

You can buy the book here.

Ages: 12+

swiss family robinson2

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