Thursday, December 22, 2011

Swallows and Amazons Forever!

(and death to Uncle Jim!)
I say! Have you ever read Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome?  If you haven't, you jolly well ought to.  The story is set in the 1930s and follows the adventures of the four sailing-mad Walker children and their boat Swallow on holiday in England's Lake District.  For two glorious weeks their mother lets them camp - on their own - on Wild Cat Island, where they meet the Amazon Pirates, a couple of local girls called Nancy and Peggy Blackett, and a retired pirate called Captain Flint, who is beastly at first.  Buck up and read it, do. It's awfully good fun.

I loved Swallows and Amazons when I was growing up. There are 12 books in the series and I still have them all.  Last month I began reading the first book aloud to my boys and by gum, they jolly well love it too.  Arthur Ransome has a real knack of storytelling and an understanding of the older child's mind. I don't know that I've read any book to my boys which has so captured their imaginations.  They plead for just one more chapter! at night.  Then, when they go to bed, they arrange bedsheets and window poles to make their own sailing boat in the bunk and play imaginative games.  I hear the call of Ready About! most nights as they settle down.


The catchcry of the book series is Swallows and Amazons forever! and now that I am passing it on to the next generation, I find that yes, they are forever! Hurrah!

Edited to add:

Last night, we read the bit where Captain Flint gave the Able-Seaman the parrot, the one that the Amazons try to teach to say Pieces of Eight instead of Pretty Polly.  This morning Cherub whipped up his own parrot.  He's called him Crackers.  You see what I mean about their imaginations being inspired.



  1. I say?


    By Gum?

    Good grief woman, have you turned into a 1900's British man?

  2. These I have not read; but considering I love English school stories / Boxcar Children / E. Nesbit's entire works, I have always meant to check them out. Tally ho!

  3. It's great to find books that endure through the generations. I loved all the Noel Streatfeild books - I'm wondering whether either of my girls would like them?

  4. Aunty: Rather!
    Jac: Might be a nice easy read for your baby-brain days ahead....
    Fairlie: I absolutely adore Noel Streatfeild books and have all of them too. I'm sure your girls would love them, especially as they are dancing.

  5. I didn't read them as a kid, but I have a slight understanding of them, and I was thrilled to go to the English Lake District in 2007, and know that there was a classic series set there, not to mention all the Beatrix Potter.

    It was a bit drizzly, and even driving the remote back roads of the area, I could feel the atmosphere and potential for adventure contained in those style of books.

    I'm so glad the boys are enjoying them, I REALLY miss reading to my kids.

  6. I loooved Swallows and Amazons as a kid (and the little house books) - it is amazing how much they are allowed to do without supervision!

  7. Excuse me for intruding...but, you are talking about the books with a girl named Titty?

  8. Yes, Titty. Who shall be renamed Kitty in the forthcoming BBC series. (Like they renamed Fanny in Enid Blyton's Enchanted Wood series, although what to, I can't recall).

    So thrilled your boys love these books. I've read them all sooooo many times and they had a huge impact on my childhood.

  9. I stumbled across the back story to Titty's name, which I always thought might have been to do with Titania, and yes, it is slightly weird reading it out loud every night, but I'm being Very Mature. She was based on a real child called Mavis Altounyan who insisted that she be called Titty because she'd been obsessed by a short story by Joseph Jacobs called Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse. I went and read it, here and it seems a very odd story to change one's name for, but there you go.

  10. I too wondered about Titty when I read my chapter to the boys.
    We lived in a much more innocent age....I think I am still more innocent than most of the younger generation.

  11. Purchasing for my J.T. Books for older children (good ones) are so jolly well hard to find!

    I just bought My Side of the Mountain for J.T. Loves a good adventure story. Arrrrr!


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