Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald

Sir Gibbie Cover

Unedited, unabridged version

Sir Gibbie (Sir Gibbie #1) by George MacDonald

Reading Level: Classic Children’s Book
Release Date: May 12, 2012
Length: 361 pages
Publisher: Public Domain
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Years ago I had a very hard time collecting children’s books by the 19th Century Scottish author, George MacDonald, because I had to track them down as rare, hardcover editions. Yes, from time to time children’s publishers, such as Dutton and Scribner’s, have brought them back into print, but “Sir Gibbie,” in particular, has often gone out of print. I used to own the version edited by Newberry Medal winner, Elizabeth Yates (Dutton, New York, 1963, reprinted Schocken Books, New York, 1979), but some time back, in a move, I lost it. Interestingly, I didn’t realized until recently that the version that Ms. Yates edited is abridged to a considerably shorter length than this, the original version. She also removed entirely or rewrote most of the Scottish dialogue. Michael Phillips states that the Yates 1963 edition of this book served as a model and inspiration for his own edited and abridged versions of many of MacDonald’s children’s novels, including “Sir Gibbie.” The version of this book that Phillips edited is titled, “Wee Sir Gibbie of the Highlands, George MacDonald Classics for Young Readers,” (Bethany House Publishers, October 1, 1990). Another edited and abridged version of this book is: “Sir Gibbie, Classics for Young Readers Edition,” edited by Kathryn Lindskoog, (P & R Publishing, 2001).

George MacDonald (December 10, 1824 – September 18, 1905) was a Christian (Congregationalist sect) minister, poet, and most famously, the author of children’s books, many of them fantasies, though not this particular children’s book. In regard to MacDonald’s fantasy novels, he inspired fellow fantasy authors Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, and Madeleine L’Engle. C. S. Lewis in particular stated that he regarded MacDonald as his “master.”

To adult readers, Gibbie may seem to be, quite heavy-handedly, a Christ figure in this novel, and the novel may seem quite “preachy.” However, taken in his own right, as the protagonist of a children’s book (to the modern reader it can be read that way, though in 1879, when it was first published, it was novel read by all ages), Gibbie is one of the most sympathetic protagonists I have ever experienced. I loved reading this book as a child, again as a teenager, and multiple other times as an adult. The unabridged, unedited version of this novel may be hard to wade through for some modern readers who dislike transliteration of dialect, because this book is set in Scotland, and is filled with 19th century Scottish brogue. I personally enjoy that and can hear it in my head as I read it and am happy to finally read this book in its original form.

As for this particular edition, it was translated to digital format by a community of volunteers and, as such, is not an elaborate edition with fancy layout. But it is adequate and easily read, and certainly the price is right–it is free.

I rate this story as follows:

Overall: 5