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British Summer Reads For Catholic Kids: Swallows and Amazons

May 31, 2019

Hello, dear readers, I apologize for the long pause after my last post. I had to write some articles for money to pay for our zip locks (insider joke! ).

Now that summer is almost here, I decided to tell you about some of our favorite children and teen adventure books to read for fun. I found that most of them happen to be British and "older". It seems that a golden age of children's literature took place in the early 20th century. There were several great storytellers at work writing exciting books with wholesome content. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were not the only masters at work.

 

Arthur Michell Ransome (1884-1967), born in Leeds, was a journalist and foreign correspondent. He became famous for his 12 volume children's book series Swallows and Amazons in which he describes the adventures of two sets of siblings. The Walkers, John, Susan, Titty, and Roger, are vacationing at a lake sailing their dinghy named Swallow. They meet Nancy and Peggy Blackett with  their boat Amazon and adventure unfolds.

 

 

 

It is hard to describe the particular attraction of these books.  They are a little slow to get into, some more so than others. Rather than jumping right into the action in the way we ares used to today, Ransome takes his time telling the story, building it up carefully, meticulously in the case of Winter Holiday. There is a lot of interesting information. Ransome does not merely tell us that the Walkers taught themselves Morse Code and the Semaphore Alphabet, he lays the whole thing out so that the reader can follow along. Some of our children became impatient with this book while others loved it and promptly taught themselves semaphore.The chemistry of the books reminds me of the hours I spent building my own household when I was about eight. It was called "playing house" but it was actually world building. I replicated everything my mother had in her kitchen or living room with some personal improvements. I spent hours building my world the way I wanted it. Once the household was complete, I relished a few moments of satisfaction followed by a "what now?". Other than in the Ransome books, the preparation for the game had been the game itself and there was nothing left to do. In Swallows and Amazons, however, the period of careful preparation is followed by exciting adventure in the world he built for the reader..

 

One could say that the six children in the books, mostly left to their own devices by their parents, are training to become competent, responsible adults through adventure. This happens in one way when they make up their imaginary explorer and pirate adventures while competently sailing their boats. It happens in a different way when they find themselves in real trouble such as getting lost in the hills in a heavy fog. Ransome uses the fog adventure to introduce in detail  the work of the charcoal burners the children stumble upon.

As you may have guessed, Ransome was fascinated with sailing and owned several yachts during his lifetime. One was called the Nancy Blackett. Kids interested in sailing, will love these books.

 

 

Here is a list of all 12 Swallows and Amazon titles which are available in a boxed set:

Swallows and Amazons (published 1930) Swallowdale (1931) Peter Duck (1932) Winter Holiday (1933) Coot Club (1934) Pigeon Post (1936) We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea (1937) Secret Water (1939) The Big Six (1940) Missee Lee (1941) The Picts And The Martyrs: or Not Welcome At All (1943) Great Northern? (1947).

 

 

All titles of the series are still in print and also available as audio books, great for those long  summer road trips!

 

 

Arthur Ransome spent much time in Russia. He worked as a foreign correspondent during the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. Fascinated with Russian folklore, he learned the Russian language well enough to translate and publish a collection of fairy tales called Old Peter's Russian Tales illustrated by Dmitri Mitrokhin. This book played a great part in introducing Russian folklore to England.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The picture book The Fool of  the World the Flying Ship, illustrated by Yuri Shulevitz, tells one of the tales from Peter's Russian Tales. This Caldecott winner is one of our favorite fairy tale picture books.

 

If you really want to get into Ransome, visit the site All Things Ransome which has collected sources and editions of all his works.

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for visiting . Check back soon for more British Summer Reads for Catholic Kids!

 

 

 

 

 

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