Isle of Fire

Our rating: ****

Declan Ross and his daughter Anne have left piracy behind and now work for the Royal Navy as pirate hunters. Their former, amnesic crew mate, Cat, has stayed behind in a monastery of treasure-guarding monks. All seems somewhat peaceful, now that Bartholomew Thorne is dead—or is he? A devious scheme to attack England takes shape, drawing Cat, Anne, and Ross into a battle that could change the course of history.

There’s no doubt about it. Wayne Thomas Batson was born to write pirate books. Most of the characters are quite deep, especially Cat, who was very well done. In the style of Brian Jacques, Batson writes a powerful story that zips along faster than a merchant clipper. My only real problem is with the possible historical inaccuracy of an attack on England, but this is fiction, after all. Although I preferred Isle of Swords, this is definitely a worthy successor.

The Swiss Family Robinson

Our rating: ****

On their way to a new life in a young colony, this family of six is shipwrecked off the coast of an unknown island. Of the entire ship’s crew and company, they are the only ones to make it to the safety of the island. There they find themselves confronted with a thousand problems, and, taking them on one by one, use ingenuity and common sense to conquer. From their lofty tree-dwelling of Falconhurst, to their impregnable fortress of Rockburg, Father, Mother, Fritz, Jack, Ernest, and Franz carve out a life for themselves.

I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this book. The Father has a very strong faith in God and is the leader of his family. The four boys get along well and respect their parents. Not to mention they break the mold of “typical teens.” The eldest, Fritz, is fifteen years old, but he is completely capable of handling a gun to defend the family, keep a clear head in sudden danger, and look after the younger ones. You might expect this book to be dreary, as there are so many building projects described, but there are several funny parts, and lots of adventure. Not the swinging from a rope with a knife between your teeth kind of adventure, but the nice, steady kind. I put it under older readers because it is written in the older style, but I remember having it read to me when I was much younger.

Where The Wild Things Are

Our rating: ***

When Max is sent to bed with no supper (he was being far too wild) he wiles the time away pretending he is on a voyage. He sails away for almost a year and comes to the place where the Wild Things are. After a wonderful time playing with the Wild Things, Max smells supper cooking and sails for home.

This is one of those odd little books that seem to have no reason, and no structure, but is thoroughly enjoyable. It’s just a little boy imagining, and it’s fun to imagine with him. Some fuss could be made over Max’s being sent to bed with no supper as punishment and then having a fun time, but imaginations are very wild things. And I guess you have to do something while you’re sitting there, waiting.

The Sea Fairies

Our rating: ****

Trot and Cap’n Bill meet some mermaids who invite them to visit their palace underwater. Trot and Cap’n Bill accept the invitation and, after the mermaids give Trot the form of a mermaid and Cap’n Bill the form of a merman, they all go to the palace, where Trot and Cap’n Bill meet Queen Aquareine of the mermaids. But Zog the Magician captures the queen, Trot, Cap’n Bill, and Princess Clia, and it’s a battle of magic to see who will come out victorious.

As a warning, in my copy of this book a few little sections have the lines of text switched around, so you have to read it out of order so it makes sense. Zog is pretty sinister. The battles of magic in his castle are neat. Most of the book is more of Trot and Cap’n Bill visiting the ocean, but it picks up somewhat at the end with Zog.

Swallows and Amazons

Our rating: ****½

When the Walker children, John, Susan, Titty, and Roger, receive permission to explore and camp for a full week on the island nearby where they’re vacationing, they are positively delighted. They set out in the sailboat, the Swallow, and the adventures begin. A few days after their arrival, they meet Nancy and Peggy Blackett, who are crusading as fearsome Amazon pirates. A friendship is struck up immediately and an offense-or-defense treaty is signed, so that they can war together or against each other as desired. But their one common cause is against Captain Flint (or rather, Nancy and Peggy’s Uncle Jim), living on a houseboat, whose terrible crime is a refusal to join in their fun this summer.

I really had a lot of fun reading this one. I’d never heard of it before until just a month or two ago, but even though it’s considered Juvenile Fiction, I’m convinced that readers of any age would enjoy Swallows and Amazons. After all, who hasn’t dreamed as a child of having adventures on a remote island? Being centered so much around boats, there is a lot of boat-related jargon that I found difficult to pick up on at first, but by the time I’d made it halfway through the book I was able to follow along without a problem.