Monday, March 03, 2008
Swallows and Amazons
Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome.
From the description in the front of the book: "This book is about sailing, fishing, swimming, camping, and piratical exploits on an uncharted lake (which bears a certain resemblance to Windermere in the Lake District). It makes the sweet freshness of the early mornings on Wild Cat Island, the long sunshiney days of adventures, and the satisfactory evenings of plotting around the campfire so real that, as one critic has said 'you don't realize it is written at all, the adventures seem to occur to oneself'. "
Swallows and Amazons was a perfect read-aloud for the fine young gents, full of adventure and daring, explorers and pirates, camping out on an island, and a real buried treasure. Captain John, Mate Susan, Able-Seaman Titty and Ship's Boy Roger, the youngest of the crew at age seven, get permission to spend their holiday camping on an island. As they sail the lake, er, the uncharted high seas, in their little boat, the Swallow, they encounter a retired sailor with a real live green parrot, and both declare war upon and befriend Amazon pirates. One of the best jokes I've ever read in a children's book: " 'Her real name isn't Nancy,' said Peggy. 'Her name is Ruth, but Uncle Jim said that Amazons were ruthless, and as our ship is the Amazon, and we are Amazon pirates from the Amazon River, we had to change her name.' "
The writing is superb, detailed and delightful, perfectly navigating the fine line between the fine and vivid imaginations of the children and their real adventures on Wild Cat Island. I couldn't wait to read the next chapter and the next and the next to discover what was going to happen next. It's a thoroughly satisfying read, and has fired the imaginations of the fine young gents. The last time we went to the park, a small hill became Wild Cat Island, and we were the ship's crew sailing the park....I mean, the lake. I've promised to sew pockets into an old sheet so that the boys can make a Swallows-inspired tent in the basement.