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on March 9, 1999
I read this book when I was 12 in England ... as did thousands of other English children. It was the 'classic' of it's time and is claimed to be more responsible for getting young people started into sailing, than any other single source. I can well believe that. That book, coupled with a sailing experience at age 10, sold me on boats for ever. At 16, I rented a yacht on the Norfolk Broads and with two non-sailing friends, we closely followed the adventures of Mr Ransome's heros. We had ALL read the book and were totally enthralled. I graduated in music early on, but at 18, I switched to study naval-architecture - all part of the influence of Mr Ransome ! Later, as a leading Canadian naval architect, I was designing large ships - (some 57 were built in Canada to my designs) - but now, into early retirement - I'm back to two things. Back to the music that I loved and left ... but also back to be recaptivated, by reading 'Swallows and Amazons' yet again !! Oh yes, I completed my first boat at 14 and so did my chum. And you can guess what they were called ... right on!! "Swallow" and "Amazon" and I have a photo to prove it !! Need I say more ??? (PS: Why this series of books are not more readily available beats me .... they are presently not generally available even in the large Canadian book stores, without special order). Thank goodnes we have Amazon.com
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on February 10, 2005
When I was a child in Canada, I used the semaphore language to write Arthur Ransome to tell him how much we enjoyed his books. Much later, he responded in the same vein. I loved all the books but hated it when I finished them. However, we made up all sorts of new stories with the same characters. Imagine my delight when I met an English man who also loved these books. We have been married for over 40 years, have been sailing, camping and messing around in boats all that time and have been involved in a catamaran company for the last ten years. Our grandchildren will soon be old enough to enjoy the Ransome world as well and we will get to enjoy the journey again.
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on December 4, 2001
In a lifetime of reading, I don't believe I have ever found a book that I loved as much as I did (and do) SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS and the other books of Arthur Ransome. Set in The English Lake district between the wars, the books tell of the adventures of a group of children unbound by parental restrictions, something totally unheard of in my world. These fortunate children, with whom the reader immediately identifies, are allowed to sail the English lakes alone and to enjoy the carefree and innocent adventures that were possible in this world. The only writer who comss close to Ransome in my experience is the late Iris Murdoch, but of course Ransome is a children's writer and in that he cannot be surpassed. I discovered the books at about 10 years of age but was grown before I realized that other people had read them too and loved them as much as I had. I think these books are the best literary companions I can think of for the older child.
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on December 4, 2001
In a lifetime of reading, I don't believe I have ever found a book that I loved as much as I did (and do) SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS and the other books of Arthur Ransome. Set in The English Lake district between the wars, the books tell of the adventures of a group of children unbound by parental restrictions, something totally unheard of in my world. These fortunate children, with whom the reader immediately identifies, are allowed to sail the English lakes alone and to enjoy the carefree and innocent adventures that were possible in this world. The only writer who comss close to Ransome in my experience is the late Iris Murdoch, but of course Ransome is a children's writer and in that he cannot be surpassed. I discovered the books at about 10 years of age but was grown before I realized that other people had read them too and loved them as much as I had. I think these books are the best literary companions I can think of for the older child.
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on November 1, 2001
I read this book to my younger sister, she didn't think much of it, but I loved. This is about 4 children who decide to spend the summer on an island. They are sure it will go perfectly until they find that a "pirate" is living next to them and some one has all ready been to there island. The story is not about great adventurers, but about children pretending. They pretend so well sometimes that I for got they were just staying on an island not a days journey away. I would not recomend this book to any one wo gets bored and doses off if every chapter doesn't have adventure (like my sister), but if you can stad the first part which is pretty long then you should read this book.
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on April 27, 2001
"Who would wave a flag to be rescued if they had a desert island of their own? That was the thing that spoilt *Robinson Crusoe*. In the end he came home. There never ought to be an end." - Arthur Ransome.
Even though I am quite knowledgeable about children's literature, I had never heard of Arthur Ransome, until Helen McCarthy's book on the master of Japanese animation taught me that this English author of the early twentieth century was one of Hayao Miyazaki's favorite writers for children, together with Rosemary Sutcliff and Philippa Pearce. As the director of such masterpieces as *My Neighbour Totoro*, *Kiki's Delivery Service* and *Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind*, Miyazaki had to know what he was talking about, so I ordered the first half of this twelve-volume series, based only on his opinion and that of Amazon's enthusiastic reviewers. Knowing that the British even have their "Arthur Ransome Society", "formed in 1990 with the aim of celebrating his life and his books", also made me very confident in the power of his novels.
As I read the first few dozen pages of the book, I first thought Ransome might have been a little overrated by readers who had grown up with him and were merely being nostalgic. I also had to acknowledge that I am not an outdoors person, and that camping and sailing have never had much appeal to me: I'd rather stay at home with a good book. So at first, *Swallows and Amazons* merely felt like a cute story about four brothers and sisters spending a few days on a little island on some unidentified English lake, putting up their tents, preparing meals and exploring their surroundings, their vision of the world transfigured by the influence of such novels as *Treasure Island* and *Robinson Crusoe*.
But gradually, the novel grew on me. I started to be drawn into this little universe, rediscovering the curiosity and the sheer joy of being alive I had experienced as a kid: the same delight at watching birds go about their business, being caught in a thunderstorm or playing the part of whatever hero I fancied.
*Swallows and Amazons* is not a highly introspective book, but it brilliantly manages to capture the sense of life of pre-adolescent children. Most interesting is the protagonists' use of the word "native": at first, I thought they were merely applying the word to the locals, as they were pretending to be explorers on an uncharted sea. But then I realized the concept had many layers, and actually signified any person - child or adult - who would not participate in the world of make-believe children live in. Talk or any other behaviour can be "native": it merely has to spoil the fun by its practicality and lack of inspiration.
I can understand why the politically correct crowd should boo Ransome's novels. Of course, his characters are white and middle-class, but there is also a deeper epistemological reason at work: the children in these books are shown to be doing exactly the same kind of thing as the advocates of PC, i.e. renaming the various objects in their environment in order to indulge in a kind of shared fantasy. Uncle Jim is turned into "Captain Flint", ginger beer into "grog" and water lillies into octopuses. Therefore, quite unexpectedly (and anachronistically), the novel can be read as a parody of political correctness, as even children are never completely fooled by their own word games and are quite capable of reverting to "native talk" whenever the situation calls for it.
If you enjoyed Richard Donner's *The Goonies*, *Swallows and Amazons* will take you on the same kind of juvenile adventure, only it is not a Spielberg production of the mid-1980s, but an English novel of 1930. I particularly recommend it to Objectivist parents who are looking for good books for their children, because it presents independent and honest heroes without ever praising religion or the virtue of self-sacrifice.
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on August 4, 2007
This is by far the best book I have ever read! Whenever I read this book (and I must have read it at least five times) I feel like I am in the Lake District sailing with the Swallows and Amazons. This book is adventurous, fun and exciting. This book is wonderful!
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on December 10, 2000
Arthur Ransome's "Swallows and Amazons" is the first in a classic series of children's stories that will appeal to readers of all ages. The book is set in the English Lake District in the period between the two World Wars, (where the author was living at the time). It tells of a time when a healthy imagination (and the freedom to take advantage of it) was enough to keep most youngsters both amused and out of mischief. The world was a safer and simpler place back then and this book does much to make us realise just how much has been irretrievably lost since.
Not that this was ever Ransome's intention, of course. He was simply drawing upon his own boyhood experiences (from a yet earlier time) as well as contemporary ones of the children of a family friend. He used these to weave an enchanting tale that would remind those same children (by then returned 'home' to the deserts of the Middle East) of a happy summer spent sailing in England.
The story's strong basis in reality (albeit several separate realities, as it were), tempered with Ransome's love of sailing (and his knowledge of Lake District life), imbue the book with a strong sense of authority. Both the text and the author's own pen-and-ink illustrations also have an endearing charm that comes across even now, some 70 years after the book was first published. One of the great things about this book (and indeed, the whole series of books that was to follow) is that Ransome avoids most of the stereotypical treatments of children's roles that his contemporaries (as well as later authors) continually espoused. He always manages to treat (nearly!) all of his characters as equal partners in their activities, whatever their age, gender or background. The children are also afforded a greater respect and rather more freedom by the adults than is common these days, too.
And while the children's 'adventures' are nothing fantastical or extra-ordinary when viewed from an absolute perspective, Ransome manages to convey so much of the children's own excitement at their activities that the reader can't help being drawn into their world and so come to share some of that same excitement. All in all, this a delightful book and should be on everybody's essential reading list, regardless of their age!
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on July 27, 1998
This famous telegram starts off the best sailing-hiking-camping books of all time. It is the regret of my life that I didn't discover them till I was in my 20s. Camping on an island without grownups! Sailing, exploring, "war to the death" with the best friends anyone could have! Stolen treasure! False accusations! Good sportsmanship! Walking the plank! These are especially good books for girls, because not only do the girls outnumber the boys, they frequently outdo them. When the Amazons suggest a war, Captain of the winning boat to be admiral of the fleet, Captain John doesn't give Captain Nancy any guff about "girls can't be admirals." The formidable Nancy and Mate Peggy have a fair shot of beating his crew of four, and well he knows it! Nor does he use his authority as captain to boss his younger siblings around, as certain big brothers I could name would have; rather, he relies heavily on the judgement of Mate Susan, whose skills as cook! and quartermaster get plenty of respect. These kids are not duffers and will not drown, but man oh man, will they have a good time. So will you.
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on April 2, 1997
I am an eleven-year-old girl who first found Swallows and
Amazons at a library booksale - even before they were
republished! Don't let the title fool you - Swallows and
Amazons are two groups of siblings. One group has a boat
called Swallow.The other group has a boat called Amazon.
The Swallows and Amazons start out enemies, but become
friends rapidly. Their adventures are similar to what I have
often dreamed of - getting a boat and having adventures on
and around an island!But their adventures are not limited to
the island, they evenvisit "the natives" back home. What's
best about their adventures is that all of them are possible!
They don't do impossible things like ride on drangons or
become invisible. Their adventures really could happen! I
loved this book from the start, and have read it again and
again. I would also reccomend the other books in this series.
They are all super, and will become treasures to pass on to
later generations. Thank you, Mr. Ransome, for writing such
a wonderful book!
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