Posted by: Lizzie Ross | April 9, 2010

Classic Friday: Swallows & Amazons

Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome, 12 Vols. + 1 book of stories, published 1930-1947, 1988 (posthumous)

Love adventure stories about children on their own and can’t get enough of them? Love sailing, camping, fishing, exploring, and other aspects of life in the great outdoors? Love the Lake District, the Norfolk Broads, the Hebrides? If “yes” to any of these questions, then this series is for you.

Ransome, who lived an exciting life (spy, sailor, possible Soviet supporter), like a few other famous children’s book writers, based his stories on the adventures of real children. In the first volume, four children of one family and two of another meet one summer while sailing in the Lake District, and  we get to share in their adventures on and around the water. Subsequent volumes take the children inland, and to other areas of England, and even, in two books, into battles with pirates in the Caribbean and the China Sea–even the characters themselves recognize these last two as pure fiction.

I’m not bothered by the fact that these kids are unrealistically brave and true and unselfish and disinclined to quarrel and adept at nearly everything they attempt. What I love is Ransome’s representation of England in the 1930s–vast areas of the countryside not overrun by tourists, providing our heroes and heroines with opportunities to hike, camp, sail, and explore, trying their best to avoid intrusions from the adult world. These books are just plain fun, and the Blackett sisters (the Amazons of the series title) are great models of fearless, fearsome girls.

NB: Peter Duck is the 3rd volume of the series, but it makes sense to read it second, since there are references to PD in the 2nd volume.

Swallows and Amazons, Swallowdale, Peter DuckWinter Holiday, Coot Club, Pigeon Post, We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, Secret Water, The Big Six, Missee Lee, The Picts & the Martyrs, Great Northern?; Coots in the North and Other Stories


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