When I was a child I would often peruse a little pamphlet my parents owned. It was titled Hand that Rocks the Cradle and featured "a select list of books to read to children." Most of the commentary about the selections was straightforward and a little bit dull, but I've never forgotten what Mr. Bluedom had to say about Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. WARNING: If you read this book you may not be able to enjoy any other book again because you will subconsciously compare it to the perfection of this book and always find it lacking. NOTE 1: If you read this book and find it does not captivate you, then there's no hope for you, and you may look upon yourself as a truly sorry case. NOTE 2: If you look up the word "adventure" you will find listed in the dictionary as its definition "circumstances that follow the plot of Treasure Island." As it turns out, I have read and enjoyed many books since my dad first read Treasure Island aloud to me many years ago, but nevertheless there is some truth to what Bluedom wrote. Certainly Treasure Island is the essential pirate story, and was instrumental in creating the modern mythos of the backstabbing buccaneer. But I would give it a higher accolade than that, and say that it is one of those great books that attains perfection within the bounds of its genre and, in doing so, transcends the genre. Thus, though it is often referred to as a "boy's adventure story," it can be enjoyed at all ages. Not all of my childhood favorites have held up as I've grown older, but this has. One of the reasons is Stevenson's writing. It's perfect. As G. K. Chesterton once wrote, "he seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen ... there was a kind of swordsmanship about it." While his prose may have been richer in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the man always had an unfailing sense of atmosphere, and here every paragraph seems to be steeped in sea salt. I find the haunting introduction of "Captain" Billy Bones particularly well done: I remember him as if it were yesterday, as he came plodding to the inn door, his sea-chest following behind him in a hand-barrow; a tall, strong, heavy nut-brown man; his tarry pigtail falling over the shoulders of his soiled blue coat; his hands ragged and scarred, with black, broken nails; and the sabre cut across one cheek, a dirty, livid white. And then there is Long John Silver, one of those larger-than-life figures who has long since assumed a life beyond what his author intended for him. We tend to think of Silver now as being menacing from the very start of the story (due, no doubt, to actors such as Orson Welles and Tim Curry playing the role on screen), but he is first introduced to us as a lovable old cook with impeccable manners ... and he retains those impeccable manners right up until the end of the book, with only occasional glimpses of his true ruthlessness. The conversations between him and Jim Hawkins (our narrator/hero, an honest and likeable lad) are masterpieces of manipulative wordplay. My favorite part of the book, however, has to be the "Israel Hands" chapter. The situation is very complicated, and the tension incredible. Here are two characters who must work together to safely navigate a ship. At the same time, Jim knows that the wounded Israel is armed and plotting to kill him. And as they work, they talk about ghosts, morality, and the afterlife. "Well," said I, "I'll cut you some tobacco; but if I was you and thought myself so badly, I would go to my prayers, like a Christian man." "Why?" said he. "Now, you tell me why." "Why?" I cried. "You were asking me just now about the dead. You've broken your trust; you've lived in sin and lies and blood; there's a man you killed lying at your feet this moment; and you ask me why! For God's mercy, Mr. Hands, that's why." My only complaint with the book is that the ending is rushed and less exciting than I remember. But that is a minor flaw. I could go on and on about Treasure Island, but I'll spare you. If you wish to know more, you must read it yourself.