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224 of 226 people found the following review helpful
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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109 of 111 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 15, 2003
I didn't discover Ransome's series until I was in my 20s, but I picked the first one up out of curiosity and was hooked.
As a child, I was a great explorer, going all over the local landscape, giving names to the different topographical features. I loved to camp and ramble. I loved boating, although I never sailed, and a picnic on an island in the river nearby (and a chance to explore said island on my own while everyone else was fishing) was a joy I'll never forget.
This book, and the others in the series, recapture those happy days for me. This one is very innocent, with no real violence or menace, but full of joyful adventure. The children are great role models; they're feisty and independent, yet still respectful of their elders. They're imaginative but know when to set aside their fantasies and deal with realities.
The book also conveys the joy of adventure and the great outdoors, and also shows that everyone has something important to contribute. Sure, one member of the group might be more interested in cooking and provisions, but that's necessary.
The adults take a back seat in these books, generally, but they're there. This one, especially, can be seen as a test by the parents to see how responsible their children are, and it's implicit that the kids are doing their best to prove themselves to their parents. The parents don't neglect them, they're there if they're needed, and check up on them regularly, but they also give them space to ramble and have an adventure.
Today it may seem as if these parents are letting their kids run wild; but I think families today could use books like this. When you have kids who are shuttled back and forth to band practice and swim team and heaven knows what else, they need the time to just relax and let things happen. When kids live in front of the TV and play video and computer games all day, they need to be reminded that there is all sorts of adventure outside. When kids are smothered by overprotective or controlling parents, they need space to be independent and prove themselves.
The only caveat I can give this book is sometimes the language can be confusing. The accumulation of sailing terms can bog a novice down, and there are some Britishisms that may puzzle some American readers, like referring to something called "bunloaf" and calling dessert "pudding." But heck, that's only minor, and ideally will inspire readers to do some research.
I highly recommend this for older readers, for children who enjoy the great outdoors or for children who have the opportunities and need to be inspired to take them. Adults, like me, who have happy memories of exploring will enjoy this as well, and it may inspire more adventures! These books may inspire you to buy more camping equipment, so beware! :)
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110 of 114 people found the following review helpful
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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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2005
I discovered SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS as a child of twelve and was thoroughly delighted. I cannot imagine why this classic series has not achieved the same status in the United States. This first volume in the series follows the children of the Swallow family as they summer in the English lake country. The story charts their adventures as they sail, camp, discover nature around them interact with each other and two girls from a houseboat (the Amazons). It is a lovely wistful book that evokes the grandeur of childhood games in nature. In the background of the story is a faint hint of the World War (the Swallows' father is in the Navy) but the sense that the children are being sheltered from adult concerns but that only heightens the loveliness of their childhood lives.

Budding anglophile children who love the English details of the Harry Potter books or the Narnia Chronicles should love the depiction of these children. (Although there is no magic in Ransome's series of books other than the ordinary magic of childhood.) It would also be an excellent choice for children who love nature or are learning to sail. I imagine it would be equally well-loved by both boys and girls. The illustrations are charming and in some of the books the diagrams of boats are quite detailed.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
I read this book for the first time when I was 37 and loved it so much I took to the sea and had adventures of my own. It's a wonderful, wonderful book for anyone who has ever dreamed of being on a boat -- or even for anyone who hasn't. Pemmican, bunloaf and chocolate have become staples of my diet; the descriptions of Susan's meals are out-of-this-world. In addition, the book is filled with practical lessons for sailing from how to line up markers to get into a hidden harbor to how to sail at night. I am Titty and my friend is Susan because he keeps careful lists and is always prepared. Our boat is "Summer Song" and we sail on the coast of Maine. We're looking forward to David Godine's publication of the complete series of books.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 26, 2002
The great strength of Arthur Ransome's "juveniles" is that he never talks down to his young readers (which makes the books equally enjoyable by adults), and despite his own years, he seems to be able to slip effortlessly into an underage mindset and share the wonder and imagination of young people living what is in essence a fantasy life with a very solid grounding in reality (preparing their own meals, sailing to Dixons' Farm for their milk each morning). Set in the gorgeous Lake Country of Northern England, it follows the four Walkers (John, Susan, Titty (presumably her real name is Letitia!), and Roger (baby sister Vicky is too small to take part in their adventures), as they go camping on the small island they have observed from the farm where they're spending their summer holidays, explore the lake and its shores, and meet the Amazons--sisters Nancy ("Shiver my timbers!") and Peggy Blackett, who were "born on the shores of the Amazon River, which flows into this ocean." Living on a houseboat anchored in a nearby cove is the Amazons' uncle, whom the six (following on Titty's declaration that he must be "a retired pirate") quickly christen Captain Flint. When he accuses John of setting off a firecracker on his cabin roof, war is declared. Meanwhile there's a thrilling cutting-out expedition by dark of night as the Swallows try to capture the Amazons' boat so John can be Commodore of the Fleet, an encounter with the charcoal-burners known as The Billies (Titty. ever the most imaginitive of the group, calls them "savages"), and a burglary of the houseboat (not, of course, by the children). The story climaxes with the Fleet's assault on the houseboat and a splendidly described thunderstorm.
All six of the child characters are individuals sketched with loving and lifelike attention, who behave like real children; that they're British and growing up in the '30's may take some adjustment (and explanation to younger audiences), but it doesn't detract from the joys of the book. The imagery and names they use for their surroundings are wonderful. Like all the series, it would make a splendid family read-aloud.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2000
This series appears to inspire fanaticism in those of us lucky enough to read them as children. Included with a bunch of Enid Blytons from my grandmother this was one of my favorite books of childhood and has become an odd literary touchstone in my older friendships. An interesting adventure story that remains rooted in reality yet gives life to the childrens' fantasies this is a book I can always retreat into. I only wish my vacations had been like those of the Walkers and Blacketts. Their camping and sailing adventures in the English Lake District are not overly dated(considering they were written in the 1930's) and probably the least sexist childrens books from that era and from today- the girls and boys have equal responsibilities and the most charismatic character is Nancy Blackett, captain of the Amazons. I don't understand how these books have remained in such relative obscurity for so long.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 1999
My father introduced me to the masterful tales of Arthur Ransome at the age of 5; since then I hvae treasured them above all other books in my collection. They become better with age, and I find myself seeking comfort in their pages more and more as I grow older. The stories inspired a sailboat purchase of our own, and I have spent many happy hours adrift in emulation of the Walkers and Blacketts. As a child, I remeber aching to join the Swallows and Amazons on Wildcat Island, and am utterly content when I can through Ransom's beautiful and simple prose.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2003
I first read this when I was a child, and remember crying buckets when it finished because I thought there was no more - in fact I was wrong, there are eleven more books, all wonderful. These stories are full of joy, inoocence and adventure, and are a tonic in our dark and uncertain times. I visited the scenes of some of them in England, and was surprised at how geographically exact they are. The characters are real, the stories believeable, and, with the various illustrations by the author, they create a truely magic world. They are also books about how to do things. You can, for example. p[ick up quite a good education in sailing and seamanship from reading them, along with how to smelt gold, burn charcoal, survey tidal mudflats, and all manner of other things. Hal GP Colebatch's book, "Return of the Heroes," which I have reviewed in its own page, sets out a good deal about Ransome, and among other things indicates some relationships between him and Tolkien. If you love sailing, and the innocent, sunny golden days of childhood, buy these books and do yourself a favour. If you have hildren, buy these books for them!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
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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