Saturday, October 19, 2013

THE STORY OF GULLIVER



TITLE: THE STORY OF GULLIVER
AUTHOR: JONATHAN COE
               Illustrated by Sara Oddi
Pages: 90
Date: 18/10/2013
Grade: 5
Details: Part of the Save the Story 
           Series
           Received from Pushkin 
           Children's Books through
           Nudge
Own

The Story of Gulliver is a modern retelling of Gulliver’s Travels and because most, if not all, of us are familiar with that story I won’t go into too much detail about those travels here.

No, in this review I want to sing the praises of a beautiful looking book, an inspired idea and a wonderful retelling.

First of, lets have a look at the book. This book, and the other titles in the “Save the Story” series are published in wonderful and very well made hard cover editions measuring about 20 by 25 cm (approximately 8” by 10” for those not thinking in metric measurements) with high quality paper, a wonderful lay-out, gorgeous illustrations and a beautiful font. These are books that were made to last, like the stories they retell are; books to be treasured and read time and again. In fact, when I requested this and two other titles in this series for review I had every intention of reading them, writing the reviews and then donating the copies to the library where I work. While I love books and have a hard time parting from them I don’t have an audience for juvenile fiction in my house anymore and donating them seemed a far better idea than trying to find a place on my already bulging shelves. Now that I’ve seen the books I’m not so sure I’ll be able hand them over though. Books this beautiful are rare and I’ve got a feeling that those shelves will just have to accommodate them.

As for the idea behind the Save the Story series, I think I love that even more than I do the appearance of these books. As it says on the books:

“Save the Story is a mission in book form: saving great stories from oblivion by retelling them for a new, younger generation.”

The idea for this series sprang from Alessandro Baricco’s mind working in close collaboration with Scuola Holden in Turin; a school dedicated to the art of storytelling in all its wonderful forms. The stories in this series cover a wide range of cultures (from ancient Greece to nineteenth century Russia), times and genres, offering young readers a wonderful opportunity to get acquainted with the wealth of fiction available to them in a language and style that will appeal to them.

As far as the “Story of Gulliver” is concerned, I don’t think there is any need for me to go into all the details since everybody will be familiar with it. And it is all here. We join Gulliver as he finds himself visiting Lilliput, Brobdingnag, the Flying Island and the land inhabited by Houyhnhnms (intelligent horses) and Yahoos (primitive human like creatures). And with Gulliver we discover that although we may think that as humans we are advanced, intelligent and good we do actually have sides to our culture that are nothing to be proud of. With Gulliver being forced to re-think everything he thought was wonderful about being human, the (young) reader is softly pushed into critical thinking as well, without the story ever becoming preachy.

The book ends on a short chapter about Jonathan Swift and his reasons for writing this book back in 1726. Since Swift wrote this book “in order to vex the world rather than divert it”, I imagine he would be delighted that this modern version of his classic will make a whole new generation think about the world and society they live in.

And finally, as far as that “whole new generation” is concerned; I’ve been trying to put an appropriate age-group to this book and series and have come to the following conclusion. I feel this book would be perfectly suited for children from about the age of five – provided it is being read to them – to about twelve. However, neither the way in which this story is told nor the contents of it has been simplified to such an extent that older readers, including adults, won’t get a wonderful reading experience out of it.

“Save the Story” is an inspired idea that has led to memorable stories being kept alive in gorgeous books written by talented and well known authors. I, for one, am more than impressed.

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