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126 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original translation
The Swiss Family Robinson was initially written in German by Swiss author Johann Wyss in 1812, and then soon after an accurate English translation was completed by William Godwin in 1816. The Godwin translation remained the standard in English for a generation or two, but by the mid-19th century the number and variety of English translations began to multiply - there were...
Published on May 21, 2008 by Stephen Balbach

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106 of 111 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Check the publisher very carefully before you buy "Swiss Family Robinson."
Check the publisher very carefully before you buy "Swiss Family Robinson." One of the versions available, published by General Books LLC, has reviews associated with completely different imprints of the book from genuine publishers.

Be warned that the contents of the version of Swiss Family Robinson published by General Books LLC is completely unedited garbage...
Published on July 21, 2010 by Kiwi


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126 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original translation, May 21, 2008
By 
Stephen Balbach (Ashton, MD United States) - See all my reviews
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The Swiss Family Robinson was initially written in German by Swiss author Johann Wyss in 1812, and then soon after an accurate English translation was completed by William Godwin in 1816. The Godwin translation remained the standard in English for a generation or two, but by the mid-19th century the number and variety of English translations began to multiply - there were no enforceable copyright laws and translators freely added episodes, changed names (and even genders) of some of the characters and cut portions of the text to conform to changing views on education and aesthetic tastes. There are probably over a dozen such variations and most who read the novel today are not reading the original (the 2007 Penguin Classics edition, edited by John Seelye, is the 1816 Godwin translation, which is the closest to the original). I have now read two: William Kingston's 1879 adaptation (one of the more common adaptations) and Godwin, and I believe the original translation of Wyss by Godwin is better. It's not abridged like most later versions so certain scenes just make more sense - for example some of the characters are more dynamic, like Ernest shows himself to be a capable bloodthirsty killer like his brothers (a scene cut from later editions to maintain his "bookish" nature) - and the theories on education are classic Rousseauian (he is mentioned twice in the narrative).

This isn't your childhood Swiss family. Godwin's 1816 translation has rarely been in print until recently - most versions floating around are some variation of Isabelle de Montolieu's 1824 French adaptation (William H. G. Kingston's 1879 English translation of Montolieu's French adaption is probably the most common). In Montolieu/Kingston's version, the original ~400 page that Wyss wrote has been abridged to about 150 pages, with an additional 150 pages or so of new material added to the end (with an entirely different ending, new characters, etc). So if you've read Swiss family as a child, and are looking for an "unabridged" version, you may find Godwin's 1816 translation missing a lot of material - simply because Wyss never wrote it in the first place.

What version to read? I would say Montolieu/Kingston's version (and others) are more "kid friendly" mainly because the Godwin translation is from 1816 and as such uses some language that is dated and has passages that would probably be boring or not make sense without historical context. So in a way there is no "right" version since most readers for the past 150 years have not been reading the "original" anyway. I would probably recommend the Montolieu/Kingston version for juvenile readers and the Godwin version for adults - or even better, read all of Godwin plus the second half of Montolieu/Kingston which is all new material, the first half just being an abridged version of Godwin.

In the end I enjoyed the novel for what it is - a great adventure and inspiring family story. Many classic stories are challenging and interesting but not always "fun" - this one is just a great story and fun to read. It's even more fun knowing there are is a whole world of alternative versions available, with more adventures and different endings, but I'm glad to have read the original as it was written by Wyss (and his sons).
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106 of 111 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Check the publisher very carefully before you buy "Swiss Family Robinson.", July 21, 2010
Check the publisher very carefully before you buy "Swiss Family Robinson." One of the versions available, published by General Books LLC, has reviews associated with completely different imprints of the book from genuine publishers.

Be warned that the contents of the version of Swiss Family Robinson published by General Books LLC is completely unedited garbage. Also be warned that when you do the "Look Inside," you're not looking at the General Books LLC version, you're looking at an image of the book from a genuine publisher that actually edits and checks their work. And the reason is....

General Books LLC puts together books using an OCR automated scanning device which misses complete pages. There are numerous Typos and there's no table of contents. There is ABSOLUTELY NO EDITING of any kind done to the book, and the scanning is done by a robot (which the publishers website says can miss pages).

This is all stated on the publishers web site (google them and read - you'll be as stunned as I was when you get all the details). The Almost every review of books published by General Books LLC (around 500,000 of them from one imprint or another now listed on Amazon) by buyers is negative, many are extremely so.

If you have bought the version from General Books LLC by mistake, you can return to Amazon within 30 days(but check Amazon's Return Policy for the details) .

Personally, I always liked Swiss Family Robinson, my one star review is for the General Books LLC version.
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73 of 76 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete translation / conversion, December 7, 2009
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The story is, of course, a classic! I doubt many would finish reading it in these days given how dated the language and story line feel. My one-star rating is solely due to the fact that this particular version is incomplete. The missing pages have a profound impact on enjoying / gaining a full understanding of the story. I feel the version description should mention the missing text!
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful adventure and nature story, October 8, 2008
By 
USAF Veteran "Inquirer" (Layton, UT United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Swiss Family Robinson (Signet Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
I rarely give 5 star reviews but this 200 year old book deserves it. It is well-written, well-paced, full of adventure, and is a wonderful book on man's interactions with nature and the environment.

A shipwreck strands a family headed for the new world with nothing but the ship's supplies and each other on a desert isle. Through hard work and knowledge of the natural world, they are able to not just survive, but thrive on the island. There is no better adventure in the natural world survival story.

This book is so good and so well-regarded that there have been multiple schmaltzy movie versions over the years. DON'T SEE THEM UNTIL YOU READ THE BOOK! The writing moves well and the plot line includes plenty of excitement. Although this book is 200 years old, the author wrote it as an action book and it does not drag like other works of the time like "Last of the Mohicans" or "Robinson Crusoe". Robinson Crusoe is another famous survival story written prior to this book, but it suffers from being a morality play with little action and long descriptive sections that are frankly boring. The Swiss Family Robinson is a much better book.

This is a particularly clean book also and is perfect for younger readers as well. Highly recommended.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate survival story., April 26, 2002
Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe carved a literary niche for the survival story, and The Swiss Family Robinson is one of the many stories carved in that mould. Written from the perspective of the father, it chronicles the first-hand account of the shipwreck and survival of a Swiss family of six on a remote island somewhere near New Guinea. The family consists of a Swiss pastor who is a walking encyclopedia on agricultural practices from around the world; his wife who excels in equal measure with culinary skills, and four energetic sons. Displaying remarkable resilience and resourcefulness, they survive completely alone for over ten years until their rescue. In the process, they create their own European civilization, showing complete mastery over animals and plants, and creatively establishing houses. The bulk of the novel consists of their struggle for survival with their endless discovery of new species of plants and animals..
Readers should be warned that different versions of the Swiss Family Robinson abound. The Swiss pastor originally credited with the work - Johann David Wyss (1743-1818) - originally told many of these tales to his children, one of whom was likely responsible for the editing and publication of it. It was subsequently translated into many languages, with translators taking major liberties in abridgement or adding episodes of their own. The Disney film version, for instance, contains confrontations with pirates that are entirely absent from the original. Some versions speak of the shipwrecked lass as "Jenny", others as "Emily". The version I read (the Puffin Classics edition) was the translation of WHG Kingston, first published in 1879, and widely regarded as one of the best-loved English translations. Remarkably, however, it is not based on the original German version, but on an 1816 French version. Regardless of which version one reads, abridged versions sacrifice much of the charm of the original. The longer versions are eloquent, descriptive, and employ vocabulary and language that makes them far more satisfying than most contemporary condensed versions.
Given that the original author was a Swiss pastor, it's not surprising to find the narrative soaked with implicit Christian influences. There are frequent references to God's providence, commendation into God's care, keeping the day of rest, as well as the encouragement of Christian morals. The exercise and promotion of Christian virtue is a clear theme, evident especially in a final scene where the father charges his sons to be faithful as Christians. "In a long conversation with my sons I solemnly charged them with the future responsibilities of their life, in all its varied aspects, of duty towards God, their fellow men, and themselves, pointing out the temptations to which their different characters were likely to expose them, and exhorting them affectionately to hold fast to the faith in which they had been brought up." The boys all have different strengths and weaknesses, and Wyss presents this as a moral lesson for his readers: "Children are, on the whole, very much alike everywhere, and you four lads fairly represent multitudes, who are growing up in all directions. It will make me happy to think that my simple narrative may lead some of these to observe how blessed are the results of patient continuance in well-doing, what benefits arise from the thoughtful application of knowledge and science, and how good and pleasant a thing it is when brethren dwell together in unity, under the eyes of parental love." The importance of a wholesome Christian family working together is very central: "And my great wish is that young people who read this record of our lives and adventures, should learn from it how admirably suited is the peaceful, industrious and pious life of a cheerful and united family, to the formation of strong, pure and manly character."
The island proves to be a form of idyllic paradise, where animals from every continent around the world apparently co-exist in a rather impossible manner (Australian kangaroos and platypuses, Antarctic penguins, African lions and elephants, North American wolves, and bears, South American boa constrictors, not to mention walruses, tapirs, toucans, flamingos and ostriches). New species of plants and animals are conveniently discovered on a daily basis, and the Wyss family appears to have an inexhaustible knowledge of how to use these resources to create their own civilization. They are little troubled by sickness, storms or strife, and have few difficulties in taming nearly every animal known to mankind. They are able to cook every delicacy ever conceived. Whether their menu offers truffles or turtle, roasted bear-paw or buffalo, the food is always good and the meat never burnt. In fact their success sometimes becomes rather repetitive and tiresome, and is evidently rooted in an overly optimistic view of mankind and faith in the possibilities offered by scientific knowledge.
But rather than become too frustrated by the utopianism, you should suspend your sense of disbelief and enjoy the ride. Certainly it is rather hard to believe that a Swiss pastor can immediately recognize a Myrica cerifera when he sees one and conveniently knows that its berries can be melted and strained to make candles, or that he knows that a sturgeon's bladder can be used to make isinglass, or that he remembers intricate details about Italian, Indian and South American practices of agriculture and animal husbandry. The production of chinaware, porcelain, soap, and rubber boots and the apparent skills in taxidermy and other exotic abilities may at times be hard to swallow. And the endless discoveries and conquests of nature are rather repetitive. But in the end it's enjoyable. It's little wonder that the Wyss family decided not to leave their "New Switzerland" at the end. For the same reason, so many people come back to the Robinson's island time and again. Some of the ideas in this book are certainly dated, but this book has stood the test of time, and spending time with the Swiss Family Robinson will continue to be rewarding.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a classic people, November 12, 2009
By 
Loree (Carmel, CA) - See all my reviews
I am shocked that people would give this book one or two stars. This book is a classic. It was written for entertainment and should be read to children of all ages. Is it conceivable that all of the events happened as printed? NO, or course not! But is it any more or less conceivable than the story of ET. We come along in this "new world" of propriety and have issues with the natives being called "savages." Please! This politically correct stuff has to stop somewhere. I suppose you think the language in Uncle Tom's Cabin is inappropriate also. So dont' read that either. These same people have to problem with books that are full of filthy language and nudity. I will never understant. This is a fabulous book. It is unfortunate that Kindle couldn't translate a couple of pages (I suspect the pages may have had images on them), but doesn't take away from the whimsy, fantasy and love (family finding out what is really important---the whole point of the book, get it) of this book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great adventure, December 17, 2006
The Swiss Family Robinson became a favorite after I read it for the first time when I was thirteen. A Swiss family is shipwrecked on their way to help begin a new colony. Everyone else being lost, they manage to escape to the neaby shore, returning to collect all the useful supplies from the ship. The father's ingenuity seems to make nearly everything possible. The story culminates with the possibility of returning to Europe, and the family deciding that their colony, New Switzerland, as they call it, is their home.

Written by a pastor, throughout the book thanks are given to God for their blessings, and His help is implored in times of danger. He is remembered in devotions and family prayer every morning, and Sundays are set apart from the rest of the week.

I enjoyed the British accent of the narrator, and will certainly listen to the CDs many times.
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55 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the Top Ten of all Time, October 6, 2000
By 
Christopher B. Jonnes (Stillwater, MN United States) - See all my reviews
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But let's be clear right up front. My 5-star rating of this book applies only to the original unabridged version in Johann Wyss' own words. The modernized versions are watered down, time-wasters for word wusses.
When I was nine years old I spent months struggling through this book for the first time. The old style language made for rough going, but I persevered. In the end I was rewarded with more than a classic tale marvelously told; I discovered a love of books and earned self-respect for tackling a tough read.
If I was a teacher whose task it was to introduce students to classic literature, I would skip Dickens and use this book. Kids love adventure, animals, and action. Swiss Family Robinson has it all. It's really a thriller disguised as a literary classic. All book lovers should read this one at least once.
And please don't watch the Disney movie and claim you've "been there, did that" on this story. The movie is totally different and in no way compares.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars warning!, August 27, 2000
By A Customer
I want anyone else who is considering ordering this book toknowthat this version is severely abridged. All references to the family's faith in God are removed, as well as other description. This may or may not be what you are looking for, but it does completely change the character of the story. This volume is about 150 pages, compared to my unabridged paperback, now sadly falling apart, which is 445 pp.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for Students, October 23, 2009
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This is a timeless classic and I am using it with my class of gifted fourth graders. What's fun about it is not so much the writing, but the exploration of the science connections! Bright kids love thinking about all the plants and animals the Robinsons's encounter on the Island and they are able to visualize all the engineering details of the raft and treehouse construction. My class had a blast reconstructing the Robinson's raft and seeing how much freight it could carry.

My son read this book as a second grader and still lists it as one of his favorites! This particular version has great study questions in the back!I also like the type size and font of this edition. The kids are a little intimidated by the size of the book, but the pages look very readable. Vocabulary can be challenging, but it's a good read-aloud book to challenge kids to at least reach above their reading level by listening...
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The Swiss Family Robinson (Signet Classics)
The Swiss Family Robinson (Signet Classics) by Elizabeth Janeway (Mass Market Paperback - December 7, 2004)
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