Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic


06.29.16 • 8:55 am EDT | 0 responses |

Gulliver’s Adventures in Lilliput 

By Jonathan Swift. Retold by Amy Keay Beneduce; illustrated by Gennady Spirin



As anyone who has read The Snuggery knows, I am a fan of the classic picture book. And here is a classic novel by Jonathan Swift that your young reader will surely discover at a later date, in its full form, most probably via some World Literature class, some years hence, on a required reading list, in either high school or college.

So, why not allow the introductions to begin right now, at the picture book stage, with this tale combining fantasy, humor and adventure, all commencing with the sailing off in 1699 of young Dr. Lemuel Gulliver to the East Indies as doctor on a ship called “Antelope.” And it’s some voyage.

Young readers will find themselves fascinated by this castaway from a ship, sunk in a tropical storm as its sole survivor. Swimming ashore, he is exhausted and…alone. But not for long.

He awakens to find himself in the land of Lilliput where the inhabitants are “no taller than his middle finger.” He also finds himself captured, and literally tied down by these small ones, called Lilliputians.

And human nature, being what it is, some of these Lilliputians are “friendly, intelligent and peace-loving, or by turns, foolish, treacherous and warlike.”

Hmmm. This is all beginning to sound so culturally familiar. Does human nature change over the centuries?

Maybe this is part of the reason why the classics are required reading in that they reveal the commonality of the inner man’s emotions and behaviors that crosses  generations…and centuries.

When Gulliver, because of his sheer size, captures a “whole fleet of enemy warships  from Blefescu, and saves the Lilliputians, he is somehow accused of treason and then…well, I’d be spoiling the outcome for young readers.

In case you are remembering the book as pure political satire, from some English Literature class, let me allay that fear. It’s there, if you wish to read into it at that level. But Ms Keay Beneduce’s retelling, along with Moscow-born artist, Gennady Spirin’s amazingly researched and detailed illustrations of such rare beauty, makes this a collectible for any school or home library.

And, it’s clear why Mr. Spirin’s masterful art is executed with such imagination and care to detail.

“Gulliver’s Travels” was his favorite boyhood story growing up, and this picture book fulfills a lifelong dream to illustrate his favorite childhood tale. And it is done with both unmistakable passion, precision, coupled with a retelling that makes Gulliver and his travels a picture book well worth both reading and acquiring for your child’s own collection.

This picture book rendering may just become a favorite of your young reader, and you as well, when you both join Lemuel Gulliver as he sails away, and lands in Lilliput.

It’s worth the voyage!!


And, if you are taken with this tale, please continue on to Alexander Pushkin’s, “The Tale of Tsar Saltan,” also illustrated by Gennady Spirin.

Imagine a young girl chosen as a bride by the Tsar Saltan. The cover art makes the tsar’s facial look and dress very reminiscent of a kindly European St. Nicholas, with full white beard intact.

But, add that jewel encrusted crown and royally embroidered robe, and he’s a tsar of taste, who picks the youngest of three sisters for his bride-to-be.

And believe it, when the Pushkin plot confirms that the tsar has picked well; that is when the read reveals the agendas of his other options.

Add in those two jealous and unchosen older sisters, who have the young married czarina and her infant son put in a barrel and tossed into the sea! Story over? Not if Alexander Pushkin is driving the tale.

There’s a magical saving swan, who is actually a …no, I can’t reveal that plot turn yet, plus the rescued young prince, now called Prince Guidon, is just longing to be reunited with his father, the tsar.

Easy peasy…if you arrive disguised as a gnat, and all arranged by the swan, and… well it’s a lively tale, more than worth the price of admission because of Gennady Spirin’s dynamically brilliant art.

And, it’s a great read, too!

And guess what? The swan is really the daughter of the…but then, that would really be telling a tale.

One caveat, although these are classically gorgeous picture books, they are also, shall I say, “text dense”, but please, do not let that deter you, as therein lies a perfect opportunity, over several days of reading, to stop at an exciting part and say, “To be continued.”

This holds both suspense and their attention span. And, I’ll wager, young readers will be bringing you the book to continue on, the next night, if not sooner.


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