Treasure Islands: A Wealth of Children’s Literature from Stevenson to Patterson
Melinda T. Falgoust
A true treasure is defined by different people in different ways. For anyone who is a teacher, a librarian, a parent, or an author, perhaps one of the greatest treasures of all is the brilliant gleam of a child’s eyes as they widen at the turn of a page. It is brighter than the glint of any bullion and dearer than any diamond. Over the years, children’s literature has been reshaped and redefined in a myriad of ways, but one thing has remained constant. Between the pages of every book, there lies a treasure. To introduce a child to the world of books is to introduce her to a wealth of knowledge and enrich her life with adventure, excitement, laughter, and dear friends she knows will always be there for her, waiting, as soon as she opens the cover of a beloved tale.
Modern children’s literature perhaps has its roots in Victorian Britain. In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution saw a marked increase in leisure time available to the general public. Where literature was formerly a past-time reserved for the upper-class, there was now a wider demand for affordable, written entertainment. Enter the “penny dreadfuls”. The penny dreadfuls were the serialized pulp fiction of the day. They often featured highly dramatic, sensationalized stories that appealed directly to the lower-class youth. While not Shakespeare, the penny dreadfuls offered a low-threshold access to the written word and began a surge in youth literacy as adolescents swarmed to devour the fantastic tales. Among these avid readers was the now famous Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson.
Robert Louis Stevenson had a distinct fascination with the lurid and fantastic, even at an early age. His letters, written as an adult, recall childhood adventures through the kirkyard (churchyard) near his relative’s estate where “the tombstones were thick, and after nightfall ‘spunkies’ might be seen to dance, at least by children.” With such an imagination for ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties, it is no wonder that young Stevenson would bundle tightly against the cold, unfriendly Edinburgh clime and hasten every Saturday with his nursemaid, Alison “Cummy” Cunningham, to purchase the latest illustrated adventures of “The Discovery of the Dead Body in the Blue Marl Pit” and other frightening tales.
The penny dreadfuls may have only cost a penny, but served to spark Stevenson to pen what is perhaps one of the most priceless treasures of children’s literature… a fantastic adventure of peg-legged pirates, an island filled with “ghosts”, and a young boy on a grand adventure. This literary treasure is, of course, Treasure Island.
Stevenson unknowingly, or perhaps with brilliant artistic intent, created many of the tropes that exist regarding pirates that can be seen in children’s literature, film and television today. Indeed, pirates rarely buried their treasure, but ask any child where a pirate keeps his loot and she will invariably answer: “X marks the spot.” Stevenson possessed a knack for what defined an exciting adventure. Searching for buried treasure is undeniably alluring for any adventurer worth his salt. Also, the pirate’s penchant for disregarding society’s rules and regulations? Well, what child wouldn’t want to do what they want, when they want?
Children’s author Melinda Long (How I Became a Pirate) shares this opinion of why pirates hold such a popular fascination, especially in children’s literature, (See her interview at Harcourt Books website). Like Stevenson’s Treasure Island, her delightful picture book tale of young Jeremy and his break from the beach as a buccaneer helps stretch brains, broaden personalities and give the framework needed to be problem-solving adults. Caldecott Honoree, David Shannon, has provided rich and vividly colored illustrations to bring the adventure to life for younger readers.
But, younger readers grow up. While I still have treasured tomes resting on my shelves from when I was knee-high to a pirate’s peg leg, as I got bigger, as children are wont to do, so did my appetite for greater and grander adventures. Fortunately for me, and the growing population of adolescent readers, there are many wonderfully talented authors out there continually unearthing new literary treasures to be discovered. One such writer is author, James Patterson.
Like Robert Louis Stevenson was considered in his day, Patterson is an extremely prolific writer with over 70 novels published to date. While perhaps best known for his adult novel series, Alex Cross and The Women’s Murder Club, Mr. Patterson has successfully made the leap into YA literature and middle-grade literature with series like Maximum Ride, Witch & Wizard, and the Middle Grade series. His new book, Treasure Hunters (September 16, 2013), co-authored by Chris Grabenstein and Marc Shulman, promises to be another exciting tale about treasure-hunting siblings who embark on a thrilling chase to find the greatest treasure of them all…family. Besides providing exciting, edge-of-your seat action/adventure stories for children and youth, and some truly laugh-out-loud humor, Mr. Patterson is a great proponent for children’s literacy. His ReadKiddoRead website was established to help connect children with books and provides suggestions, reviews, and giveaways for kids of all ages. It also provides helpful tools and information for educators. The site, like Patterson’s books, is a veritable treasure trove and should be bookmarked by anyone searching for literary gems for youth.
In the spirit of these talented writers, the upcoming novel The Gubbins Club: The Legend of Charlie’s Gold (July 5, 2013), celebrates this spirit of grand adventure. In this exciting tale of pirate’s gold and daring chases, “X” does, in fact, mark the spot. When a mysterious package arrives at Edinburgh Academy from his archaeologist uncle, the main character, Smout, finds himself embarking on a dangerous adventure throughout the streets of historical Edinburgh to find a lost pirate treasure. Smout and his ragtag group of friends must solve a series of strange clues and riddles to puzzle out the mysterious trail. But they're not the only ones in search of the gold. Someone as ruthless as the pirates of old is hot on their heels. Will they find the treasure before he finds them?
Recipient of a five-star review from Readers’ Favorite, The Gubbins Club invites readers to join in a swashbuckling adventure, outsmart the grown-ups, and simultaneously benefit youth arts education. One dollar from the sale of each book will be dedicated to a grant to help fund arts programming, perhaps providing an opportunity for the next generation Stevenson, Long, or Patterson to create literary gold.
- a gilt-edge hardbound edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's Teasure Island,
- a hardbound edition of Melinda Long's How I Became a Pirate,
- a gift certificate for a copy of James Patterson's upcoming Treasure Hunters, and;
- an autographed ARC of The Gubbins Club: The Legend of Charlie's Gold, as well as some additional pirate booty.
To win, all adventures who correctly piece together the mysterious puzzles and forward the correct rhyming clues to the author by email after midnight (CST) May 13, 2013, and before midnight (CST) on May 19, 2013, will be entered into a drawing for the prize. The winner will be notified via email. if the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a second drawing will be held to determine a new winner. The contest is open worldwide.
To continue on your quest for discovering new and exciting treasures in children's literature, you're invited to continue on the Kid Lit Giveaway Blog hop by clicking the following link:
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