Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer; but he is probably best known for the classics Treasure Island, A Child’s Garden of Verses, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Treasure Island is one of the most famous adventure stories in English literature. The lasting appeal of the story is supported by the fact that there are more film versions of Treasure Island than almost any other classic novel.
First published in 1881 (but as a book in 1883), it is a gripping coming-of-age tale for the main character, Jim Hawkins. The adventure takes Jim away from his calm English life to the high seas aboard the Hispanola and into the unknown.
Book Background: Treasure Island was written by RLS after returning from his first trip to America where we was married. Still a relatively unknown author, inspiration came one summer in Scotland when bad weather kept the family inside. To amuse his 12-year old stepson, Lloyd, RLS used the idea of a secret map as the basis of a story about hidden treasure.
Taking inspiration from his travels, childhood, and trips around Scotland visiting lighthouses, as well as finding character’s inspiration in his friends, Stevenson sat down and wrote the adventure that became one of the most beloved pirate tales of all time. It gave Stevenson fame and was the first of many classic stories told by him.
Recommended for Students: Grades 5 to 8
Themes: Courage, Bravery, Heroism, European, Honor, Loyalty, Friends, Friendship.
One of Stevenson’s most enduringly popular novels, Kidnapped (originally The Lad with the Silver Button) was inspired by real events in Scottish history. The Appin murder of Colin Campbell (aka the Red Fox) in 1752, sparked the biggest manhunt seen in Scotland at the time and eventually brought an innocent man to death after a trial that has been dubbed “the blackest mark on Scottish legal history”.
Book Background: In 1870 Stevenson received a copy of The Trial of James Stewart. It was the official record of Stewart as an accomplice in the murder of Colin Campbell of Glenure. Compelling to such a passionate Scotsman and a trained advocate (lawyer), Stevenson was outraged to learn how a man without evidence against him could be sentenced to death simply to satisfy clan revenge and a vengeful government determined to end the Jacobite rebellions. The entire episode was thoroughly investigated by Stevenson, with him and his father visiting Appin to check sources and facts. In this way Stevenson was able to cleverly weave together his fiction with historical fact, creating the seamless adventure.
Recommended for Students: Grades 6 to 8
Themes: Courage, Bravery, Heroism, European, World History, Friends, and Friendship.