It's hard to believe that Lemuel Gulliver is nearly 300 years old. His story and character seem as fresh as ever in this new adaptation of Jonathan Swift's classic novel, first published in 1726.
There's much more to Gulliver's Travels, of course, than simply an adventure story. Swift's novel was a scathing political and social satire, a biting critique of political events in England and Ireland, as well as English values and human nature itself. Swift so feared retribution he originally published the work anonymously.
Over the centuries many elements of this classic tale of the ship's surgeon who has four fantastic adventures have seeped into daily life. Take those uncouth "Yahoos" Gulliver encounters in the land of the Houyhnhnms. According to the history of Yahoo.com on its website, founders David Filo and Jerry Yang maintain that Yahoo! is an acronym for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle," but at the same time they liked the general definition of a yahoo: "rude, unsophisticated, uncouth." If Swift only knew!In their attractive and accessible adaptation, Martin Jenkins and illustrator Chris Riddell capture the energy and humor of the original book. Riddell's Gulliver seems always to be in motion. He has a fluid, expressive face. And you can almost hear him exclaiming as his adventures unfold. Although the book is long, there is artwork on every page, making it a perfect read-aloud (one chapter a night) with lots of luscious illustrations for children to exclaim over. Listeners and readers alike will also enjoy the map detailing Gulliver's voyages to Lilliput, Brobingnag, Laputa and the land of the Houyhnhms. Parents who last encountered Swift in high school or college may well find that many of his observations ring true, sometimes uncomfortably so. All the more reason to introduce a new generation to the incomparable Gulliver and his amazing travels.
Deborah Hopkinson's most recent book for young readers is John Adams Speaks for Freedom.