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Swallows and Amazons (Vintage Children's Classics) Paperback – 2 Aug 2012
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Arthur Ransome was a prolific writer of children's books. Born in Leeds in 1884, it was his father, a nature-loving history professor, who inspired his love of the outdoors and nurtured a passion for fishing. As a child he enjoyed active, outdoor holidays: sailing, camping and exploring the countryside. He used many of these holiday settings for his children's stories, notably the much loved Swallows and Amazons, a book that sits comfortably in the category of "timeless classic" and remains one of his most popular titles for young people.
It is the wholesome story of four young children, John, Susan, Titty and Roger, who set out in their boat (the Swallow of the title) to an island of adventure. All seems well until they encounter their enemy. At first they are angry at the invasion of their peaceful haven by these Amazon pirates, Nancy and Peggy, who claim ownership of the land. But in time a truce is called and the Swallows and Amazons become firm friends. Camping under open skies, swimming in clear water, fishing, exploring and making discoveries is the stuff of dreams which serves to make this so charming a tale. The author manages to capture the innocence of a time when all this was real and possible. Swallows and Amazons will transport children to a fantastical place where they can play safely and roam freely, without an adult in sight.
"I read the entire series of Arthur Ransome's children's books as a child and thought they were absolutely fantastic. They were full of adventure, all sorts of exciting things happened and they were truly inspirational" (Ellen MacArthur)
"You'll want to give this to your children as a window on a time when adventures came from swimming, fishing, camping and exploring rather than in an Xbox...The best line is when Nancy reveals that she is really called Ruth, but changed her name when she heard that pirates are ruthless" (Independent)
"A book that has stood the test of time... enchanting and escapist" (Sunday Express)
"My favourite was the first, Swallows and Amazons, which starts with Roger, aged seven, tacking his way up a field. I knew nothing of halyards, forestays, strops or sheaves, but I was enchanted by what Swallows Roger, Susan, John and Titty, and Nancy and Peggy, the Amazons, got up to with them so cleverly and bravely.My own summer holidays were never quite as exciting, and I never stopped longing to meet them all" (Sue MacGregor Daily Telegraph)
"So what makes these different to any other set of classics? In a moment of inspiration Random House had the bright idea of actually asking Key stage 2 children what extra ingredients they could add to make children want to read. And does it work? Well, put it this way...my 13-year-old daughter announced that she had to read a book over the summer holiday and, without any prompting, spotted The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas...and proceeded to read it! Now, if you knew my 13-year-old daughter, you would realise that this is quite remarkable. She reads texts, blogs and tags by the thousand - but this is the first book she has read since going to high school, so all hail Vintage Classics!" (National Association for the Teaching of English)
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Top Customer Reviews
I felt very doubtful as I ploughed through the first page (how long does it take for a small boy to cross a field?!) but as the seconds ticked by I gradually slipped deeper and deeper into the world of the Swallows and the Amazons, a world of wild forests, lakes, snake-charming savages, robbery, warfare, piracy, and exploration. At one o'clock in the morning I was up to my waist in cold water with Titty, quietly scrambling into the enemy ship 'Amazon' with my heart thudding dizzily in my chest. "Quickly, quickly!" I urged her silently, my fingers gripping the pages just as tightly as her fingers gripped the oars. When my parents came home Mum was not pleased to discover me still curled up on the sofa at three a.m, eyes wide open, desperate to prolong my camping trip on Wild Cat Island. Dad just smiled; 'Swallows and Amazons' had been a childhood favourite of his, too.
I developed an obsession with the whole series, even going so far as to adopt the language and mannerisms of Captain Nancy Blackett. ("You tame galoot!" is still one of my favourite insults, and I'm now eighteen!) The synopsis for 'Swallows and Amazons' may sound boring in comparison to Rowlingesque fantasy - six kids go away to camp on an island - but Ransome's glorious imagination has turned this most ordinary of events into an exciting adventure story that is still capable of captivating children (and the odd university student...) sixty years further on. My copies still have houseroom on my overcrowded bookshelves, their faded covers and well-thumbed pages telling everyone who enters my room how much I love them. They rarely make 'em like this any more...
"Swallows & Amazons" is now derided by many for being dated, dull and politically incorrect.
However it proved to this reader that books were A GOOD THING. To a seven year old, the book gathers you in and makes you care about and identify with the characters. This was the first proper book I ever read and understood.
Of course the writing is dated. Of course children can't roam as free as John, Susan, Titty and Roger do any more. Yes, there's no real story as such - but it DOESN'T MATTER.
I challenge anybody with open mind to read the first 50 or so pages of this book and not care about the participants and carry on entranced to the end. And the good news....there's plenty more in the series to read.
Last year, for the first time, I was ecstatic to be able to visit "the" Lake and actually landed on "the" Island. I was 34 years old at the time.
Swallows and Amazons has gripped this reader for nearly 30 years. Even now, every few months or so, I dust down a treasured copy of one of the series and read on.
My father introduced them to me when I was young and now at the age of 42 with 3 small chidren I am hoping to do the same for them (am also hoping that my eldest might as a result of reading it might fixate on a sailing dinghy rather than a pony...).
If you are like me and have precious little time, then buy the Gabriel Woolf narated version on CD. Almost brought me to tears with the beauty of the prose and Woolf's faultless interpretation.
But whatever you do buy the book for the children otherwise they will miss out on the fantastic illustrations and the simple joy of creating the world of the Swallows and the Amazons for themselves.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A fine book which I remember from my childhood 60+ years ago. Bought for my grand daughter. No feedback from her as yetPublished 7 days ago by grave doom
My third review is connect with the first (Secret Water). Bought as a three pack bundle.Published 2 months ago by Robin C