The Swiss Family Robinson

by Johann Wyss

Other authorsWilliam H. G. Kingston (Editor), May Lamberton Becker (Introduction), Jeanne Edwards (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1946



Local notes

Fic Wys





The World Publishing Company (1946)


Relates the fortunes of a shipwrecked family as they adapt to life on an island with abundant animal and plant life.

Original publication date

1879. William H. G. Kingston translation

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
The Swiss Family Robinson, first published in 1812, is considered a staple of children's adventure fiction. Somehow I must have missed it growing up, and unfortunately it wasn't the fun read I was expecting. It was—dare I admit it?—rather boring. I was expecting adventure; what I got was a list
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of inventions and how they were invented. After awhile I grew tired of the descriptions of plants and their uses, the narrator's random useful knowledge and ingenuity, the details of every innovation, the management of their various homes and outposts, etc. And where, oh where are the pirates?

This is, of course, one of the more successful imitators of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, and it's fun to think of Johann Wyss's children gathering around him to listen to the adventures of the Swiss Robinsons. And it did inspire the old Disney movie, which is an utterly ridiculous and lovable film. I appreciated Wyss's deliberate inclusion of moral lessons, though I might approach things a bit differently than the narrator with my own children.

Despite the general fact-reporting style of the narrative, there are a few humorous bits, like this wry observation:

I constructed a couple of hen-coops, too, for the hens and their little chicks which we had brought from Woodlands, for I knew that if I left them unprotected, the inquisitive dispositions of Knips and Fangs might induce them to make anatomical experiments which would be detrimental to welfare of the youngsters. (300)

The edition I read from Puffin is the most popular English translation by W. H. G. Kingston, and I didn't find it particularly well done. Misplaced modifiers, comma splices, and other such failings are the order of the day.

I found this copy secondhand and it has its own little history, I think. The inside cover is inscribed to "Zoë" from "Papa" for Christmas 2004. I can't help but imagine some fond grandfather giving his granddaughter a book he loved and hoping that she would enjoy it just as he had. Well, it's a paperback and didn't show any signs of ever having been read when I bought it. I hope Papa never found out.

Though I can't say I really blame Zoë, either. Disappointing.
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LibraryThing member Bookish59
The Robinson Family, are shipwrecked on a tropical island for over 10 years. They survive because the father knows NEARLY everything related to science, botany, animal husbandry, farming, carpentry, parenting, marriage, and more, and because they managed to salvage most of the useful items from the
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ship, i.e. lanterns, silverware, dishes, tools, wood, barrels, books, as well as the animals on board.

They explore the island, find plenty of plants and trees that can be used, and begin building a number of homesteads as well as defense barriers. They hunt to eat, but also capture native animals to tame and use for heavier work. They plant and harvest, repair and improve, and beautify until the island truly is New Switzerland.

Because this was written in the early 1800's specifically for BOYS, the tone is old-fashioned and sexist; the book is filled with moral lessons on co-operating, independence, responsibility, respect for elders, physical prowess belief in G-d, and knowledge of the environment. Surprisingly not boring; the Robinsons navigate from one adventure to the next, celebrate their successes, and love and care for each other.
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LibraryThing member thornton37814
I remember trying to read this book when I was a child. I didn't enjoy it. I did, however, enjoy the movie better. The story concerns a Swiss family's adventure in the South Pacific after being shipwrecked. It's a story of survival. After seeing another person's review here on LibraryThing, I
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decided to revisit the book to see if my adult tastes in reading made a difference in my like/dislike of the book. Unfortunately I found that the book had not aged well, even though it is considered a classic. It's one of the few books which fall into the category, "Skip the book; watch the movie instead."
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LibraryThing member aprildt
This is considered a classic, and I liked a lot action and the inventions the family created when they were stranded on the island, but I was not able to keep my disbelief suspended. For example, the father knew every species they came across. I don't believe that anyone in 1800, no matter how
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well-read he was, would react to every species (both plant and animal) with a spurt of perfect knowledge of that species. Fun book, for the most part.
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LibraryThing member nx74defiant
My memories of this story came from the Disney movie. So I noticed the differences. Disney reduce the number of sons to three. In the book they have 4 sons. The later half is quite different from the movie.

I was surprised by how violent the boys were toward the animals they met. How they would
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"punish" an animal. The father really disliked his son Ernest. Ernest was a thinker and more serious not as inclined to physical action, so the father dismissed him as lazy. It made me uncomfortable how the mother wanted then to stay with her. She dreaded her son's going off and having their own lives.
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LibraryThing member LovingLit
So. A family gets shipwrecked on an island. They happily build some houses, plant food-bearing plants, tame some local animals, and kill one of everything else they see to put in their "museum". The head of the household is a pious man, who luckily seems to know everything about every
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animal/plant/indigenous custom that ever existed. This father is the narrator of the story. It seems that at every turn there is an opportunity for him to impart some specialised knowledge and moral lesson for his sons. I found him to be stuffy and arrogant, but that was the time I suppose.

The only thing saving this story for me was that it was originally a bedtime story told to the authors sons. In that context I can see the fast moving events working, but in the novel form it is repetitive and borderline meaningless
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LibraryThing member Dreesie
Misogynistic drivel.

Father knows all. About everything. Animals, plants, trees; how to build, cook, grow, and make things he remembers reading about in some book some time ago. Mother cooks, and cleans, and is incredibly strong and clever for someone who needs so much protection. Boys are clever
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and kill everything in sight.

When I was a kid my brother had a beautiful illustrated edition of this book. (I had Pinocchio.) I read mine, and I wanted to read his books soooo badly. These editions were beautiful, full color, thick paper. And he would not let me. And my parents backed him up, it was his book. I was willing to let him read Pinocchio. He didn't want to. He didn't read his volume either. It just sat there, making me angry. I loved the Little House books, I so wanted to read this beautiful book about the stranded family! Why didn't my mother just tell me it was drivel?

(Read on Serial Reader.)
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LibraryThing member hemlokgang
I was genuinely surprised at how much I disliked this book. The father was ridiculously knowledgeable and moralistic. Yuck!
LibraryThing member MrsLee
I read this aloud to my children and they enjoyed it once the action got going. I think they were a bit credulous at the way the survivors managed so well on the island, yet it was fun to read anyway. Besides, that was one of their favorite places at Disney Land, though I think it has been changed
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now to something more modern. Loved the discussion in the book of the things seaweed is good for and its various properties.
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LibraryThing member azlanshae
This book is about a family who gets shipwrecked. They take refuge on the shore of an island and hope someone comes to rescue them. Eventually they decide to begin making a home for themselves. The boys help their father create an amazing tree house. The family spends their days adventuring around
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the island and their nights playing music and dancing! The littlest brother is my favorite because he likes to catch and train wild animals on the island. The older brothers go off to explore the other part of the island and end up saving a girl (who they think is a boy at first). The brothers vie for her attention and both develop crushes on her. In the end they are rescued by the girls grandfather, but all but one brother choses to stay on the island and continue living the dream life!
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LibraryThing member mickmyster13
Although this book had some boring parts I think it was overall a wonderful book. There is so much the imagination can do with this story. I remember as a kid how cool I thought it would be to live like this family. I would love to use this as a read aloud in a classroom, however I'm not sure how
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good it would be with the few boring parts. I wonder if there is maybe a shorter version of this story that would be better for a read aloud?
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LibraryThing member chblondie97
I really recommend this book to all ages!!
LibraryThing member loganlash20
The Swiss Family Robinson is about a family that shipwrecks on an Edenlike island. Thier shipwreck and the rest of the crew takes the boats and leave. This book is very interesting, but it gets boring after a while.
LibraryThing member Nikkles
Swiss Family Robinson is a great family adventure story. Its old but still a great read with lots of action. If you like this definitely try Kidnapped.
LibraryThing member asmirnov
Perhaps their lives would have been even better if they spent less time praying and thanking god. This aspect of the book became very annoying very quickly. The least favorite (for me) of the Robinson-type marooned-on-an-island type books (Defoe, Verne, Etc).
LibraryThing member t1bclasslibrary
I didn't expect to like this one as much as I did- I thought I'd be bored with it and put off by the fact that an impossible variety of animals and other inaccuracies were coupled with the know-it-all tales of the father. I ended up being fascinated by everything they did. All their adventures, all
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their creations, everything that made living in the wilderness a civilized and abundant life for them. The ending had some interesting implications- if they indeed started a colony, they wouldn't have the same abundance, but at the same time, they'd have friendship and a future.
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LibraryThing member mumfie
As an adult this story is ridiculously irritating.

The ship they were shipwrecked from happened to be outfitting a colony and therefore has all the tools and growing crops you could wish for. The island has a good selection of edible plants, trees and animals, as well as running potable water. The
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family between them can manage everything and know how to do everything they need without having a survival manual to hand.

If you can get past all that it's a good and classic novel.
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LibraryThing member Danielle_B
I absolutely loved this book!!! It was difficult to put down therefore this was a "nothing else got done" kinda book. It was wonderful to read about how God came first, as it should be, and how getting back to the basics brings family blessings unmeasurable.
LibraryThing member Crewman_Number_6
A little dated, but always a classic.
LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
This classic tale of adventure is a perfect story to place in the graphic novel format with it’s exciting story and colourful backdrop. When their ship strikes a reef and they are abandoned by the crew, this family manages to survive the storm and salvage many necessary ingredients to their
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survival on a isolated tropical island. In fact not only do they survive, they manage to thrive and create a wonderful colony that eventually, when they are discovered, lures more people to join them.

With four sons in the family, it is a given that there will be adventures galore. Sharks and jaguars, tree houses and caves, all are drawn in great detail, and this book, originally published in German in 1812 springs to life on these pages.

Although simplistic and somewhat abbreviated , this graphic version is a wonderful introduction (or re-visit) to the classic original, especially as it cuts down somewhat on the dated religious views and overly sentimental family values that are strewn throughout the book. Published by Campfire Graphic Novels, this is just one in a large series of classics such as Kim, Prisoner of Zenda, Gulliver’s Travels and many more. Re-visiting the Swiss Family Robinson was a fun way to spend an afternoon.
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LibraryThing member davidleeking
Loved it as a kid. As a grown up reading it TO my kids, it was a little tedious in places. And I got a kick out of how many different species of animal exists on their little island.

Most amusing.
LibraryThing member auntieknickers
It's been a very long time since I read this, but I think I still have my original copy from the Junior Deluxe Editions book club my parents signed me up for. I'm sure I read it more than once, because I have such clear memories of the adventures. I especially loved how they could always find
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things they needed on the wrecked ship.
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LibraryThing member cshoughton
A story about a family sentenced to live in a paradise of raw materials and quality tools where they enjoy near-constant divine intervention on their behalf. There's no tension or depth in the book, just an inventory of their industry, consumption, and slaughter.
LibraryThing member Demosthenes
I'm going to make a reality t.v show like this. "suvivor" on steroids.
LibraryThing member edwinbcn
Nowadays, a work such as The Swiss Family Robinson would be considered an unacceptable rip-off of Robinson Crusoe. What is puzzling still is what lends it the status of a classic, if not its apparently staggering sales.

Devoid of originality, what more (except for sales) does a book need to become a
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classic. Presently, both Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson are mainly read, whether or not in adapted editions as children's books. The latter was intended to be a book for children, while the former was not. It is difficult to assess whether youth would consider Defoe's novel distressing or difficult to understand.

From a pedagogical point of view, that is to say, children would probably learn more words and concepts from The Swiss Family Robinson as the author deliberately enriched it with vocabulary, referring to various plants and animals, which could not have lived together on a island as described.

Where the island of Robinson Crusoe would appear alien and dangerous, the island of The Swiss Family Robinson would seem familiar, surroundings essentially not much different from the reader's home surroundings. Both Robinsons were happy to get shipwrecked with some supplies and tools they could salvage from the wreck, but in the case of the The Swiss Family Robinson they were able to salvage so much and so many essentially luxury items that their experience on the island is not very distressing. The same attention for luxury is expressed in the idea of constructing a spiral staircase in their shelter (p. 162) and preparing a meal of caviare (p. 176).
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