If Lord of the Flies is one of [your child's] A-level texts, they may just be interested to know that this 1857 Boys' Own adventure story about pirates, cannibals and how to survive on a Pacific island with a broken telescope and a rusty penknife was what inspired William Golding's novel. He even pinched Ballantyne's names, Ralph and Jack, for his leading characters - though there the resemblance ends. Here the boys are shining stiff-upper-lip products of empire who risk all to help each other and their friend Peterkin, who may or may not be the piggy in the middle. He sounds as if he went to a better school. This is Peterkin telling his chums what he thinks of being shipwrecked on a desert island: 'I have made up my mind that it's capital, first-rate, the best thing that ever happened to us. We've got an island all to ourselves. We'll take possession in the name of the King, then we'll build a charming villa and plant a lovely garden round it, stuck all full of the most splendiferous tropical flowers, and we'll farm the land ... and be merry.' That's how small boys wearing round black straw hats, worsted socks and pocket handkerchiefs with 16 portraits of Lord Nelson printed on them and a union flag in the middle used to talk in the mid 19th century. --Sue Arnold, The Guardian
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About the Author
R. M. Ballantyne (24 April 1825 – 8 February 1894) was a Scottish juvenile fiction writer. Born Robert Michael Ballantyne in Edinburgh, he was part of a famous family of printers and publishers. At the age of 16 he went to Canada and was six years in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. He returned to Scotland in 1847, and published his first book the following year, Hudson's Bay: or, Life in the Wilds of North America. For some time he was employed by Messrs Constable, the publishers, but in 1856 he gave up business for the profession of literature, and began the series of adventure stories for the young with which his name is popularly associated.
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