MacBeth's Opinion presents:
Make your next holiday a Swallowdale adventure! Scroll down to see our "cover shots!"
The Swallows and Amazons series, written by Arthur Ransome between the World Wars, continues to be a favorite of my children. Currently, the books are republished in the US by Godine, and a few videos based on the series are also available. The rich and engaging text is accompanied by Ransome's own drawings, though he often attributes them to the children in the books.
New! Read How Swallows and Amazons Came to be Written!
New! Swallows and Amazons, the original novel, on unabridged cassette from the BBC!
The books take place in England--the Lake District, the Norfolk Broads, the North Sea--and occasionally, in fantasy--the Caribbean. For the most part, these are adventures that can really happen, and therein lies the beauty of the tale. Ransome gently captures the lives of these children, and hands them to us to enjoy. What child hasn't dreamed of having his own boat, mining for gold or visiting the North Pole?
Read the latest issues of "Signals," the official newsletter of the Arthur Ransome society.
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Audio book lovers! Find S and A audio here! (gently abridged versions from the UK)
The original book, Swallows and Amazons, is a story about the Walker children, John, Susan, Titty and Roger, who are spending the summer in the English Lake District. They sail about the lake in a boat called "Swallow," and find an island perfect for camping. The island is perfect, but it is also the traditional camping place of the Blackett girls, Nancy and Peggy, who call themselves the Amazon pirates after their sailboat, "Amazon." The Swallows and Amazons resolve the dispute by "war,"--really a game of strategy on the lake. Who will win? Will Captain Flint (the Blackett's uncle) join in? Can they brave a storm? What will mother think?
New! Swallows and Amazons, the original novel, on unabridged cassette from the BBC!
Swallowdale finds the Swallows and Amazons revisiting the Lake District, but disaster strikes! "Swallow" is shipwrecked, and her crew is stranded on the mainland. Worse, the Amazons are visited by their great aunt, who doesn't take to the idea of adventuring children. Making the best of the situation, the Swallows find a small hidden valley--Swallowdale--and camp there. Can the adventures continue without the Amazons, or will the Amazons find a way...?
Peter Duck : A Treasure Hunt in the Caribbees, is a bit different. It is surely fantasy, with pirates, danger and violence, but it seems so real that it might frighten younger children. Like those in Treasure Island, these pirates are really bad guys--no doubt!
Winter Holiday , as you might expect, takes place in the winter along the now frozen lake. "Swallow" and "Amazon" are stored for the winter, but the children, joined by newcomers Dick and Dot, continue their great adventures. Winter holidays are extended by an unexpected quarantine--Captain Nancy has the Mumps! Dick and Dot are staying at Dickson's farm, where they meet John, Susan, Titty, Roger, Nancy and Peggy, and together they set off on a journey to an old building they call the "North Pole." Dick and Dot set off too early and get caught in a harsh winter blizzard! Find out how the rest go on an adventure to get them back! (-- Libby Derham, age 10)
Click here for more Winter Holiday photos!
In Coot Club, Dick and Dot are the stars. They are spending some time on a boat on the waterways of England, where they meet, Tom, the doctor's son, twins "Port" and "Starboard," and the "Death and Glory" boys. Coots are nesting, and some rude vacationers are disturbing their nesting area. Tom decides to take matters into his own hands, and gets into a good deal of trouble. Dick and Dot are learning about the coots, sailing, and friendship with Mrs. Barrable and her pug, William.
The Big Six continues the story of the Coot Club. This time, the Death and Glories are falsely accused of a crime, and the "Ds" try to prove his innocence. The art of photography was still in its early stages. Can a photograph help them?
Pigeon Post is a terrific story about gold mining. The Swallows and Amazons, joined by Dick and Dot, are trying to find gold in the fells around the lake District. The Amazons have a new surprise: Homing pigeons! Drought and a competing miner threaten to ruin the children's plans...and where (or what) is Timothy?
We Didn't Mean to go to Sea is a thrilling adventure. The Walker children are on a friend's boat, in the fog, ALONE! The tide comes in and carries them out of the harbor. When the fog has lifted, they must find their way--but which way is home?
Secret Water picks up where We Didn't Mean to go to Sea leaves off. The Swallows, joined by the Amazons, are on a real desert island, threatened by rising water and mud flats...ah, but once you've read the others, you can't help but read this one. Excellent for understanding geographical features, as the kids must map the area themselves, make a sundial, etc. (There is some "make believe" regarding cannibals that some may find disturbing--but rest assured: No one gets eaten <G>).
The Picts and the Martyrs The funniest of the Swallows and Amazons books. I had a great aunt just a strict as the "G. A." The D's must stay in an old stone shack in the woods while the G. A. visits. Will they be discovered? Will the Amazons survive those frocks, hats and gloves?
Great Northern? Set sail in the waters off Scotland! Dick battles to save rare birds from egg collectors. Great adventure, with a lesson in ecology! The "Great Northern" of the title is a loon!
Missee Lee is an Asian adventure. Check the Arthur Ransome Society's Japan Club for (nearly useless) hints about this story. This is a "Peter Duck" story that is a terrific addition to the study of China.
Coots in the North (currently unavailable) is an unfinished work, where the Death and Glory boys stow away, only to be met by Dick and Dot. Read it and weep, or finish it yourself! :,(
I rarely recommend videos, as the books are almost always better, but these videos are very well done, and enhance the reader's "view" of the areas in the books. Try them; they are sure to become family favorites.
Swallows and Amazons--This video is beautiful...the acting is first rate, and while, like all movies, it leaves parts of the book out, the scenery (it was filmed on location in the Lake District) is picturesque. This is one of our family's favorite movies. Sadly, this is rarely available in the US, and the PAL format of the British VHS is not compatible with our video players...but, if your computer has DVD capabilities, it can sometimes play the DVD from Amazon UK! This is a great 2 video set, since it also includes The Railway Children. Ordering from Amazon UK is fast and cheap! Check Amazon UK's return policy, just in case!
Exquisitely filmed on the Norfolk broads, the Coot Club video faithfully captures the story of the Coot Club as they try to save the coots from destructive vacationers. The "Death and Glory" boys are just as you would imagine. The townsfolk and the "Hullaballoos" are so real. Join the "Ds" as they sail the Broads.
The Big Six!
Continues where the Coot Club leaves off, with the same cast. Travel back to England between the wars and enjoy a sail! Delightfully true to the book.
For more about the Norfolk Broads and these videos, go to Arthur Ransome's Norfolk Broads.
Planning a Swallows and Amazon's vacation?
Check out these titles:
Now available in the US!:
In the Footsteps of the "Swallows and Amazons" by Claire Kendall-Price Describes 19 walks to take through the Lake District. This is a neat book. It has maps of the areas where the books take place, and helps you to make your own holiday plans. Stay at "Holly Howe!" Find the "North Pole" at Ambleside. Follow the maps to "High Tops." Fun for vacation planning or dreaming for all ages.
In Search of Swallows and Amazons is simply far too much fun--I stayed up half the night reading it at a friend's house. Here we find the truth behind the tales. We actually meet the families, in photo and essay, upon which Ransome based his tales, and see the boats they sailed. A must have for any Swallows and Amazon fan. (Written by the real Roger!!!)
More Arthur Ransome links:
The Arthur Ransome Society in the US
An Arthur Ransome Slide Show
The Nancy Blackett Trust
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