Monday, May 7, 2018

Classic Starts: Robinson Crusoe

by Deanna McFadden & Daniel Defoe
143 pages / 2008

Sometimes whether a book is really good or not depends on how you are going to look at it, and what you are comparing it to.

A bad book?

If you were to compare this Classic Starts retelling to the original Robinson Crusoe published in 1719, there are a number of ways where the retelling falls short:
  • It is, at most, just one quarter the size and that means significant parts of the story had to be left out (Robinson's encounter with a pack of wolves, for example).
  • Historically inaccurate political-correctness has snuck in, with Robinson's native servant, Friday, now simply his native friend.
  • And most significantly, the general Christian worldview that is a big part of the original is almost entirely absent. A non-Christian won't think this a Christian book at all. However an astute Christian reader will still see hints of it.
Why it's good

Now let's do another sort of comparison. When I'm trying to find a book that I can read to my girls – 4 though 8 years old – I know that the original Robinson Crusoe is simply too tough a book for them. My 8 year old might be able to enjoy it, once I got her hooked, but how could I expect my Elephant and Piggie-loving 4-year-old to come along for the ride?

So, I need something simpler. But I'm also tired of reading just Elephant and Piggie-type books. They're too simple for the 8-year-old, and I wouldn't mind trying to stretch them all, at least a little bit.

Of the chapter books at my local library, it's hard to find gems. It's shelves full of kids talking disrespectfully, swapping potty-humor jokes with friends, turning into witches, or having adventures with ghosts. It's just row after row of juvenile silliness. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.

So then I hit on this "Classic Starts" series. It's put out by Barnes and Nobles' Sterling Children Books, so, as you might expect of a secular company, their retellings aren't going to be particularly careful about preserving an author's Christian worldview. But because they are classic stories, and many of the authors did indeed have a Christian worldview, even when retold, the stories are still good clean fun for the whole family. So, suddenly, I had a dozens of titles to consider...and that got me very excited. Our girls (and mom and dad too) have already enjoyed their version of PollyannaThat one might actually be better than the original.

So, let's look at this Crusoe retelling and focus on the highlights. It is a really good read because:
  • At one quarter the size, this is a story that 4-year-olds can enjoy. And because the retelling is polished, and the original material is so rich, this is something mom and dad can enjoy too. That makes it great for the whole family in a way that the original isn't. 
  • There are still hints of the Christian worldview here. And it isn't as spiritually deficient as 99% of what you will find on the public library shelves. If we didn't know about the original, Christian parents would love these without reservation. 
  • This is a gateway to the original. Kids like to hear the same stories more than once. I had a retelling of Around the World in 80 days, that while a radical abridgment, was still too long for my littlest. But then I read a comic version of the story to her and that got her interested in the book. And just as the comic led to the abridgment, my intention with these Classic Start retellings, is that, with at least some of them, I hope to use them as lead-ins to reading the originals. 
I'm not recommending the whole Classic Starts series – we've only read two to this point. But I did want to let parents know about them; this seems, at the very least, a good series to investigate further.

No comments:

Post a Comment