Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
Jonathan Swift's Gulliver

Jonathan Swift's Gulliver

Spring 2005 Picture Books
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs.
Illustrator: Chris Riddell
Told By: Martin Jenkins
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 0-7636-2409-8
Hardcover Price: $19.99
In a stellar moment for children's book publishing, Martin Jenkins retells Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels without missing a verbal beat. The text, still told in the first person, is full of wonder, credible detail and heart stopping adventure, all totally believable because of the narrator's precise accounting and of his character. Gulliver seems a simple soul who, like our best selves, tells the story as he sees it.

He also reports his own emotional responses, not to make the story his own, but to inform the reader in such a way that she or he "feels" the story as well as hears it. When he comments that the royal apartments are magnificent, the Empress is "kind enough to hold her hand out the window for me to kiss."

Our narrator tells what he gathers of the society's ideas, thoughts, conclusions and procedures. For example, the Lilliputians are sure parents are the worst people to educate their own children. Youngsters are therefore sent to school at twenty-months and kept there until fifteen ("our twenty-one"). Children of the poot are not educated as other children, but they are looked after when they are sick or ill. Because of this there is, Gulliver tells us, "no begging in Lilliput."

Accompanying his adventures in the land of the small includes Gulliver's travels to Brobdingnag, land of giants. He journeys beyond it to Laputa where the taciturn inhabitants require a hit on the head to speak.

Other people Gulliver meets on his seventeen years long trip have their own peculiarities or, more fairly, their own differences which Chris Riddle illustrates brilliantly and subtly. There are touches of fun in his work that will surely entice and please political students, as well as keen observers, finding people we have known or think we know in his astute pen and ink sketches. The cross hatchings throughout are memorable, the portraits so fully characterized we can almost hear their voices and even their witty comments.

We read this is a Disney production but throughout smacks delightfully of 18th and 19th century London when the town was bristling with smart and snooty pleasures.

Diana Huss Green   ©2005 Parents' Choice

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