This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Jim Hawkins helps his parents run a seaside inn called the Admiral Benbow. An old sea captain named Bill becomes a boarder there. He keeps to himself except when he’s had too much rum. When he’s drunk, Bill tells stories and makes anyone nearby sing with him. This annoys Jim’s father. Bill secretly pays Jim to keep his eyes open for a one-legged man.
Jim’s father’s health deteriorates, and he dies. His doctor, a man named Livesey, is also a magistrate in town. Livesey reluctantly tends to Bill when the captain’s health begins to fail. A few strange men come to the inn looking for Bill, but Bill chases them off. When Bill finally dies, Jim’s mother instructs the boy to take the key off of Bill’s body so they can retrieve the money he owes them.
Jim uses the key to open the trunk in Bill’s room. Mother, desperate to be honest, begins to count coins so she will take only what they’re owed. In the process, Jim finds something wrapped in oil cloth that he feels he should give to Livesey for safe keeping.
They discover Bill is better known as Billy Bones. The dead man’s enemies begin to descend on the inn where Bill’s body still lies on the floor. Jim and his mother run to a neighboring village for help. Law enforcers accidentally run down the blind man who was the leader of the enemy gang. He dies, and the rest of the buccaneers run away.
Jim is finally able to deliver the oil cloth to Livesey, who is smoking near a fire with his comrade, Squire Trelawney. The men unwrap the package and discover a treasure map. Livesey and Trelawney decide to secure a ship and crew to hunt for the treasure. They invite Jim along. The boy is thrilled to join such a grand adventure.
Trelawney makes preparations for the journey. He writes to tell the others about their ship, the Hispaniola. He has met a stranger named Long John Silver on the docks. The man will be their cook and has also helped him assemble a crew. When Jim learns Silver has only one leg, he is reminded of the man Billy Bones feared most. But as soon as Jim meets Silver, he’s taken by his charm and knows this couldn’t be the same one-legged man. As they prepare to leave, their hired captain confesses he feels uneasy about this crew. Livesey takes a few precautions, but Jim and Trelawney feel annoyed by the captain’s attitude.
The voyage begins well, but the mate continues to show up for his work drunk. He soon disappears, and it’s assumed he’s gone overboard. Jim falls asleep in an apple barrel on deck one night. He awakens to overhear a conversation between Silver and some other crewmen. The men want to get rid of Trelawney, Livesey and the captain as soon as possible so they can return to their rum-swigging ways. Silver urges them to be patient. He says as soon as the ship is close enough to home on the return voyage that they won’t get lost, he and the crew will kill their employers.
The men spot land, which Silver says is Skeleton Island. Jim calls his guardians aside and tells them what he’s overheard. The concerned men urge Jim to keep his ears open while they determine what to do. As the crew prepares to go ashore, Livesey and Trelawney secretly give loaded guns to all the men they trust.
Jim sneaks ashore on one of the boats and is able to overhear more discussion between Silver and his men. He also sees Silver kill two crewmen. Silver gives a signal, calling in more of his pirates, and Jim runs off for fear of being discovered.
Jim runs into a ragged man named Ben Gunn, whose shipmates marooned him on the island three years earlier. Ben says he has found the treasure of Captain Flint, for whom Billy Bones was mate. Ben urges Jim to make a bargain with Trelawney on his behalf. Ben will help stop the impending mutiny and surrender the treasure if Trelawney will pay him and give him passage home.
Jim finds the captain, Trelawney, Livesey and a few other faithful men. They have taken over an old fort on the island and are fighting off Silver and his pirates. The doctor goes to see Ben Gunn, and Jim feels jealous of Livesey’s adventure. Jim sneaks out on a small boat and unties the Hispaniola, which the pirates have seized but have left only two men on it. The only two men aboard are fighting. One kills the other, and the one remaining alive, named Hands, is too weak to steer the now-drifting ship.
Jim boards the ship, thinking he can return it to his guardians. Hands and Jim work together to steer, until Jim discovers Hands is hiding a weapon and intends to attack him. Jim gets out two guns to defend himself. Hands throws a knife that hits Jim, and Jim accidentally shoots the pirate. Hands falls dead in the water.
Jim makes it back to the island. When he reaches the fort, however, he discovers it is under pirate control. Silver tells his remaining men not to kill Jim, and Jim learns the pirates have possession of the fort and the treasure map as part of a deal made by his guardians. Silver and the remaining pirates, with Jim as a hostage, follow the map. They discover someone has dug up the treasure.
Livesey and Ben Gunn appear. They save Silver because he saved Jim’s life, but they scare off the other pirates. Jim learns Ben had already dug up the treasure. The men spend days loading it on to the ship. Near the end of the voyage, Silver escapes with some treasure and is never seen again. The rest become rich, but Jim is still haunted by the things he’s seen.
Ben Gunn sometimes goes to pray at the cemetery, using it as a sort of chapel. A dying man asks someone to read a prayer, as tradition requires. The captain has packed a Bible with him on his escape from the ship. Jim prays when he thinks he’s going to die at sea. Jim tells a pirate if he (Jim) had lived in sin and lies and blood, he would be asking for God’s mercy. One pirate pulls out his Bible when he thinks he is being haunted.
Other Belief Systems
The word a-- appears several times. Bloody battles and skirmishes take place, and a number of men die. Jim helps the doctor drain blood from Billy in an effort to heal him. Another man is trampled beneath a team of horses. Silver shoots and stabs men. Hands’ throws his knife at Jim and cuts him.
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Alcohol: The pirates are drinking and/or drunk almost constantly after the mutiny. Alcohol often makes them angry and quarrelsome. When Billy is drunk at the inn, he often forces the other guests to sing and interact with him, much to their chagrin. Jim’s friends give him wine as he tells them what he’s overheard.
Lying: The pirates lie frequently about their true identities and intentions.
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Readability Age Range
8 to 12
Robert Louis Stevenson
Originally published in 1911 by Cassell and Company; this edition was published 1981 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division