42. Jonathan Swift's Gulliver retold by Martin Jenkins

Jonathan Swift's Gulliver retold by Martin Jenkins. Illustrated by Chris Riddell (Canada) - (US)
Candlewick Illustrated Classics

Pages: 167
Ages: 8+
Finished: Feb. 18, 2011
First Published: 1726 (this edition, 2004)
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: classics, fantasy, satire
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

My name is Gulliver. Gulliver Lemuel.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my son.

I've been looking for a *good* children's version of Gulliver's Travels for many years and have finally found the perfect version that I will recommend to anyone wanting to read this book for enjoyment. I love Gulliver's Travels; it is a wonderful story *but* I do not like the original version. Yes, I've read the original book, start to finish. Now I'm usually all about reading the original versions of classics but Gulliver is different. First of all Swift's Gulliver is not a children's story; it is political and social satire of the 1700s. It is full of references to personages and politics of the 1700s that have no meaning whatsoever to the 21st century reader unless of course you have studied the 1700s political scene yourself. The original is full of long, dreary passages that may have been hysterical in 1726 but are just completely long-winded and boring for the typical modern day reader and really there is no point in subjecting a child to it. This is why most children's versions only include the first two chapters: the voyages to the land of the little people and then the land of the giants. But the last two voyages are wonderful as well and I've been looking for a version of this book, that removes the outdated prattle but keeps the complete 4 chapters. This book has done so; plus adds illustrations by the comedic artist Chris Riddell and we have a winner of a book.

This version of Gulliver is not missing any details or plot lines, all voyages are covered. Now it has been some time since I read the original, but as far as I can tell the "rude" bits have been left alone as well. Social commentary is still present, only reworded to be understandable to today's ears and political satire has been kept up to a point as to where it is still relevant and no personages are mentioned at all, except on the island of ghosts where he calls upon people from the past such as Julius Caesar, Hannibal and Alexander the Great. Gulliver still tries to describe his world of Yahoos in words such as "They eat when they are not hungry and they drink when they are not thirsty." Social commentary which is still relevant today. The immortal Luggnuggians who have the gift of eternal life but not eternal youth are just as frightening a concept then as now.

Chris Riddell's illustrations are what you would expect them to be. Wild and wacky, hilarious and hauntingly eerie at times. A better artist could not have been chosen for this fantastic adaptation. In fact, it was seeing Chris Riddell as the illustrator that pushed me into deciding to give this version a go. At 164 pages, it may seem like the book does not have much meat but don't worry there is plenty of text here. The text is a little smaller than usual but in an easy to read font, the book is wider than a regular sized book and there are many pages of text without illustration and the use of an illustration on a text page has been used frequently as well. There is plenty of story here! I recommend this version of "Gulliver's Travels" to anyone young or old who wants to read a faithful rendition of the book without having to suffer through the pages of eyes-glazing-over 1700s political/social satire found in the original. Leave the original book to the scholars and read this true adaptation for the pure enjoyment and humour the book has to offer.


  1. Yeah, I found the original kind of dull, too... Maybe I should give this a try!

  2. My 10yo hung onto every word of it. He loved it. The illustrations helped but he got the humour and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm really glad to have found this version. It's a keeper for my shelf and eventually the grandkiddies, someday.


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