The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

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Book Review of The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

As a lover of classic literature, I cannot believe that I haven’t read The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss! I watched the movie as a child, and from what I can remember, the book is not like the movie at all. That’s always how it goes though, right? What an adventure! Let’s just say that if my family were ever shipwrecked and stranded on an island, I would hope it would be the same island as the Robinsons. We would definitely not do as well as they did! What they accomplished is pretty impressive!


The Robinsons leave Switzerland in hopes of settling far away as missionaries, then afterward settling as citizens elsewhere. Their journey did not go as planned, and they ended up shipwrecked on a deserted island off the coast of New Guinea. They took from the ship what they could, including seeds and some animals. From the Preface: “…few books have obtained such deserved popularity. The gradual progress of the family from utter destitution and misery, to happiness and abundance, arising from their own labour, perseverance, and obedience, together with the effect produced on the different characters of the sons by the stirring adventures the met with, created a deep and absorbing interest.” The family learns together how to improve their lives. They work hard, endure many hardships, and thrive on the island.

My Book Review:

You know the game where you’re stranded on a deserted island and you can only take 3 things? One of my things would be this family. Seriously. If you’re going to get stranded, get stranded with the Swiss family Robinson! The book is fairly well written. You can tell by the way the father (the narrator) addresses and talks about his wife that this book was written a long time ago. Another clue is that he uses the Biblical name for their donkey (if you know what I mean), which is different than most people speak today.

The characters are well developed, and I liked them. I found the father to be a bit much sometimes. He seriously knows everything: what all of the plants are and what to use them for; how to plant crops; how to hunt, skin, and save the meat; how to build buildings and bridges and carts and canoes; how to navigate in the ocean; how to raise animals; how to build canals for fresh water drinking, bathing, and crop watering. You get the picture. The mother miraculously knows how to spin cotton to make clothing and how to cook.

Each of the boys has a unique personality and talents. I liked that they were able to find roles in the family to make those talents shine, and to improve them. Another thing I loved about the boys was how well they took care of their mother. They loved her so much they would spend days or weeks building things for her to make her life easier or more comfortable. Kids today could definitely do more of that!

I liked how they prayed and observed the Sabbath Day; you don’t read about that a lot today. I also liked how hard they all worked, and the good attitudes they had about their situation. It’s a little slow at points, but there’s some good action interspersed to make up for it.

There were a couple of things I didn’t like or that I noticed. They killed quite a few animals (some out of necessity–some not). We all know they need to eat, so that’s not the problem. One of the children, especially, killed some animals he didn’t need to. It’s a magical island—did you know that? On this one island there are flamingos, bears, bison, and penguins.

Overall, I am impressed with how they thrived on the island–didn’t just survive. Positive attitudes, hard work, gratitude, and working together helped them achieve this. During this difficult pandemic, I think we could all learn some lessons from this family. Yep, if you’re going to get stranded on a deserted island, make sure the Swiss family Robinson family is with you!  I did like the book and think it’s worth reading.

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There is minimal profanity in this book. They do use the Biblical name for the donkey, which technically isn’t a swear word in that context, but my kids consider it one. There’s not any “intimacy,” and very little violence. They call the native people “savages,” which isn’t too PC, but it was written a long time ago.)

Age Recommendation: YA+

My Rating: 3/5

3 Star Rating

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