Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome, is a delightful and timeless children’s book. I had not read it many times since the first time when I was young, so when I was at my parent’s house recently and saw it on the shelf amongst all the children’s books I have kept, I decided to read it again. I remembered enjoying it but not being as captivated by it as some of the other books I read as a child, so I wasn’t sure if I would like it now or not. I was in fact a little bored at first, but once I got in to it I found it quite engaging and even took it home with me as plane reading. It is a simple story in the typical fashion of British children’s novels from the earlier part of the 20th century. Four children at a lake for the summer sail to an island in the lake and camp on it for several days, encountering two other children and having a variety of adventures. One of the things that makes it most delightful is that the author is in the childrens’ heads most of the time. You hear about the adventures from the point of view of the fantasy world of the children, in which they are brave explorers charting unknown territory. At the same time, though, the children are not just in a fantasy world: they really are having adventures. They are sailing and camping on the island by themselves and they have much more freedom than most children do today. If for no other reason I think the book is wonderful for its depiction of children living wholesome, unstructured lives. I wonder if the children of the era (1930) that the books were written really did have so much freedom. It seems a shame to me that it is no longer this way.
Swallows and Amazons is the first of a series, and the remaining volumes are still at my parent’s house. I will probably continue reading them on future visits. I highly recommend it, especially if you have children in your life to introduce them to!