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.

Winter Holiday

Our rating: *****

Dick and Dorothea are staying at Dixon’s farm for their winter holiday. So when they meet the Swallows and Amazons, it’s time for some imaginative adventures! The itinerary? Expedition to the North Pole. The problem? The lake hasn’t frozen yet, and nobody can properly make an expedition to the North Pole without a frozen lake. Will the lake freeze in time? Find out in this excitement-packed fourth Swallows and Amazons book.

I’ve never been a big fan of winter. But when I finished this book, I almost wished I was. The children have so much fun and do so many exciting things that even I, a self-proclaimed winter humbug, couldn’t help wishing I was with them. There’s not really anything to complain about here, either, making this one of my favorites in the Swallows and Amazons series and a book that’s easy to recommend.

Bridge to Terabithia

Our rating: **½

Jess is surprised when Leslie, the new girl at his school, chooses him as her only friend. However, he is soon very happy to have met somebody who actually cares about his hobby of drawing and understands him. Together they “discover” the imaginary land of Terabithia and retreat there from all their problems. But how long can it last?

I found this one intriguing. It starts out as a slice-of-life story and a neat one at that. But about halfway through, with hardly any foreshadowing, the plot takes a turn you won’t expect (unless, like me, you had it ruined for you ahead of time). There’s definitely room for lots of discussion about the ending, which strikes me as sad for reasons the author didn’t quite intend.