Swallows and Amazons

by Arthur Ransome, 1930

Precious, beautiful, sweet book about 4 children in 1930s England whose mother (and father, by telegram from a destroyer on the China Seas) allow them to sail away and camp on an island in the lake, and all the wonderful adventures they have. They meet pirates, 2 girls their age who sail the seas just like them, and a retired pirate who lives on a houseboat with his green parrot. The children are John Walker, the Master; Susan Walker, the Mate; Titty Walker, the Able-seaman; and 7-year-old Roger, the Ship’s Boy. This book was one recommended on the 2021 Book-a-day Calendar.

What is utterly amazing is to compare the parenting of yesterday with that of today. There is NO WAY any parent of today would let their 4 children sail away on a lake to camp on an island for weeks. But these parents did, even though the youngest, Roger, could not even swim yet. Mother asked the older children to take care of him, and they did; they made sure he was warm and fed and safe, and they taught him to swim. Their mother made tents for them with pockets in which to put boulders so the wind wouldn’t blow them away. She arranged for a nearby farm to provide milk for them every day; they had to sail there each morning. She provided them with food and flashlights (“torches”) and visited them once in a while. The children have many, many adventures, the most exciting of which is that they find the “treasure” that burglars stole from the retired pirate. This treasure was actually the book he had been working on all summer – his “Life” – that could never be replaced.

I LOVED this book! What a different, sad, barren world we live in now compared to then. Media (TV, especially) has sapped our spirits, taken away the richness. They had only books back then, and the rich imagination of these children is Divine. Plus, the parents gave them such a gift by allowing them to have amazing experiences by themselves that gave them joy, confidence, and a love of life, nature, and others.