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.

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!