Friendship, resourcefulness, adventures! Here’s the classic tale of two families of children who band together against a common foe: an uncle who claims he’s too busy for his nieces.
The Walker children (John, Susan, Titty and Roger) are on school holiday in the Lake District and are sailing a borrowed catboat named “Swallow,” when they meet the Blackett children (Nancy and Peggy), who sail the boat, “Amazon.” The children camp together on Wild Cat Island where a plot is hatched against the Blackett’s Uncle Jim who is too busy writing his memoirs to be disturbed.
Fireworks―literally―ensue along with a dangerous contest, a run-in with houseboat burglars, and the theft of Uncle Jim’s manuscript. How all this is resolved makes for an exciting and very satisfying story. Uncle Jim ends up apologizing for missing his nieces’ adventures all summer―thankfully, readers won’t miss a thing.
Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series has stood the test of time. More than just great stories, each one celebrates independence and initiative with a colorful, large cast of characters. Like the entire series that follows, this book is for children or grownups, anyone captivated by a world of adventure and imagination, exploring and setting sail.
“Clean and lively prose, with an earnest whimsy…The 12 books in the series are justly ranked as classics, standing with the children’s stories of Kipling, Barrie and Grahame.”―The Telegraph
“The author really does know how to write for children: in other words, he writes of what he himself delights in and so pleases without any effort both young and old.”―The Nation
“This book is both silvery present and golden retrospect. All that is tedious and sullen and deceptive vanishes in its sunniness as clouds vanish in the tempered air of a summer day. . . We think that the book will last, too, from edition unto edition.”―Saturday Review
“There is plenty of excitement, a little danger, a quality of thinking, planning and fun which is delightful and stimulating.”―Times Literary Supplement
“He makes a tale of adventure a handbook to adventure.”―The Observer
“For those who regret the hemming-in of childhood, the Swallows and Amazons are free-range children to gladden the heart.”―The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
Arthur Ransome, in full Arthur Michell Ransome, (born January 18, 1884, Leeds, Yorkshire, England—died June 3, 1967, Cheadle, near Manchester), English writer best known for the Swallows and Amazons series of children’s novels (1930–47), which set the pattern for “holiday adventure” stories.
After studying science for only two terms at Yorkshire College, Leeds, Ransome pursued a literary career. His ambition was to be an essayist like William Hazlitt and to write books for children. In 1902 he moved to London, worked as an errand boy for publishers, and became a freelance writer of articles, stories, and reviews. His first book of significance, Bohemia in London (1907), is a partly autobiographical account of this period in his life. From 1908 to 1910 he edited a series of anthologies, The World’s Story Tellers, and published a general History of Story-Telling (1909). He also wrote critical works on the writers Edgar Allan Poe (1910) and Oscar Wilde (1912); the latter led to an unsuccessful libel suit by Lord Alfred Douglas.
In 1913, largely to escape his unhappy first marriage (to Ivy Constance Walker, 1909; divorced 1924), Ransome went to Russia and studied native folktales, some of which he retold for English children in Old Peter’s Russian Tales (1916). From 1915 to 1929 he was a newspaper correspondent based in Russia, Latvia, and Estonia. His articles and reports during World War I and from Russia after the Revolution of 1917 were vivid, insightful, and sometimes not welcomed by the British government. Although never himself a communist or socialist, he defended the Soviets in Six Weeks in Russia in 1919 (1919) and The Crisis in Russia (1921). In 1924 he married Evgenia Petrovna Shelepina, once a secretary to Leon Trotsky, and they settled in England.
Ransome traveled on assignment for the Manchester Guardian to Russia, Egypt, Sudan, and China and sailed in the Baltic Sea. He described the latter experience in “Racundra’s” First Cruise (1923), a small gem of sailing literature. He also wrote about another of his passions, angling, in a newspaper column and in books such as Rod and Line (1929) and Mainly About Fishing (1959). As an expert on Russia, he contributed relevant articles to the Encyclopædia Britannica in 1926. But he is most famous for 12 children’s books, beginning with Swallows and Amazons (1930), which follow a number of resourceful boys and girls as they sail, camp, and have adventures, both real and imaginary. In these Ransome celebrated the outdoor activities he loved and the places in England, especially the Lake District, dearest to his heart. The sixth book in the series, Pigeon Post (1936), won the first Carnegie Medal for excellence in children’s literature; however, its successor, We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea (1937), is widely considered Ransome’s masterpiece.