Secret Water

Our rating: ****

The Swallows and Amazons return for another imaginative adventure! This time the Swallows’ youngest sister Bridget comes along on an exploring and mapping expedition as the children are “marooned” by their parents on the islands of Secret Water. However, mapmaking is threatened by war when the Eels, a “savage tribe” of four other children camping on one of the other islands, want the islands to themselves and attempt to drive the Swallows and Amazons away.

Let’s deal with my one problem with this book first. The “savage tribe” of Eels imaginatively goes the whole nine yards into playing savages, including a pretend human sacrifice to the Great Eel and a very un-pretend blood brotherhood ritual. Anybody with a sense of humor will find these parts funny, but some might consider them a bad influence. I’m in the former camp, so with that out of the way, let me tell you what I like about Secret Water.

It’s a charming, witty, exciting story full of lots of imagination and humor. Adventure? Plenty. Marooned explorers, unexplored islands, attacks from savages, and thrilling escapes. There’s something here for everybody, and you can’t help but wish that you were inside this story.

We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea

Our rating: ****½

While awaiting Commander Walker’s return in Harwich, John, Susan, Titty, and Roger make friends with the sailor of the Goblin. Mrs. Walker gives them permission to sail up and down the river for a few days until their father arrives. When the sailor disappears ashore, however, and the anchor drags, the Walker children find themselves being swept out to sea on a very real adventure.

Whereas most of the other books contain more imaginative, light-hearted adventures, the dangers in this story seemed more present and real. The children are, after all, at sea by themselves. It’s an exciting read, though sadly the Amazon pirates never show up. Nevertheless, it’s probably one of my favorite Swallows and Amazons books.

Bookmark: Swallows and Amazons

Part of our Read-a-Thon 2010 highlight posts.

If you’re looking for some good contemporary (or historical, I suppose) fiction with a fun twist, you may want to check out the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. Set in England some while ago, it follows John, Susan, Titty, Roger, Nancy, Peggy, and other friends introduced throughout the series as they sail on the lake and make up different adventures. Ransome manages to give it a real, yet imaginative feel with an overall sense of fun. Some of the books are devoted entirely to the stories the children make up.

Here are some of my personal favorites from the series. Read the rest of this entry »

Pigeon Post

Our rating: ****

The gang from Swallows and Amazons is back for book six. This time around, they leave the boats behind and strike out inland to find gold. Mining operations are in full swing, and they may even have found something. But a mysterious figure with a squashy hat is dogging their every move. Is he after the gold? Will he try to jump their claim? Adventure abounds in this action-packed sixth Swallows and Amazons book.

I had all sorts of fun reading Pigeon Post. There are lots of exciting parts requiring much “lurking” (the crew’s term for stealth maneuvers—gotta love it!). The signature Arthur Ransome adventures and storytelling come to a head in a masterful ending that captures the dream of the gold hunt quite properly. My only qualm with this delightful tale is a few chapters semi-devoted to (successful) attempts to dowse a well. But that’s a minor part of this tale, and the rest is wonderful. The childhood gold miner in everyone will be satisfied here!

Coot Club

Our rating: ***½

Dick and Dorothea Callum are on their way to visit Mrs. Barrable (who used to be their mother’s schoolteacher) for the summer, when they meet a boy named Tom Dudgeon. It turns out that he is a neighbor of Mrs. Barrable, and is also the oldest member of the Coot Club—a club consisting of himself and five other children, formed for the protection of birds along the river. But the real trouble begins when some rowdy tourists scare a pair of coots from their nest, and Tom casts off their moorings during the night. Dick, Dorothea, and Mrs. Barrable decide to help Tom hide from the angry tourists and take him on a trip down the river in Mrs. Barrable’s houseboat.

I was a bit put off that none of the original Swallows and Amazons were included in this book—in fact, all the characters are new except for Dick and Dorothea. Once you get to know them, however, it isn’t so bad, and I particularly like Mrs. Barrable and her habit of making drawings in the margin of her letters. Tom’s action, though desperate, could also be considered a bit questionable. I wouldn’t consider this one of the very best of the Swallows and Amazons series, but it’s still an enjoyable read.