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  1. #1
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    Default Swallows and Amazons

    Thinking of buying the series for my grandchildren but would like to know what age range they are best for and whether some of the books are better than others.
    Thanks in advance. Jim

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    Many children over twelve or so might get bored, only to rediscover the series in their thirties. Others, like myself, found the stories when I was abou six or seven and never tired of the whole lot.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    I'm with Ian. I read them first when I was five, and re-read one of my favorites of the series --We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea-- a few months ago while I was sailing up to Port Townsend for the Pocket Yacht Palooza. I don't think a year goes by that I don't read one or two.

    Some of the books *are* better than others --but opinions vary wildly as to which those are, and my favorites have changed dramatically over the years. When I was very young, I (literally) read the cover off Missee Lee; I haven't re-read that one in probably fifteen years. I initially really didn't like The Picts And The Martyrs; now, as an adult and as a writer, I really enjoy what Arthur Ransome did with it. We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea is probably my favorite of the lot --but without all the books leading up to it, it wouldn't be half so good. So don't read them out of order, the first time around.

    I just last month started my mother to reading them --I was shocked that I grew up with them, courtesy of my father (they divorced when I was 3), but she had always shied away from them out of concern of stepping on his toes. She is now devouring them.

    As I warned my mother, there is a bit of confusion sometimes when first reading the series: Two of the books, Peter Duck and Missee Lee, are unabashedly fantasy. They are meta-stories: tales told by one of the characters (Titty) to the other characters during school holidays when they are not engaged in the real-life adventures of the other books.

    What is also confusing is that Peter Duck, Book 3, is referenced in Swallowdale, Book 2. This is because Peter Duck "happens" (is told by Titty to the others) during the winter holidays that fall between the summer holidays when Swallows & Amazons (Book 1) and Swallowdale take place. In real life, the story of Peter Duck began as a short story (some hypothesize that it was only a writing exercise, never seriously intended for publication) that Arthur Ransome eventually expanded into a full novel, but only once Swallowdale was complete and at the publishers. So *technically* you could read Book 3 before Book 2 if you wanted.

    I can't imagine ever being without a set of the S&As. I keep two copies of the series on my shelf: the hardcovers that I grew up with and that never leave the house, and the softcovers that are my "loaners," and that will often come out on the boat with me.

    Alex

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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    Quote Originally Posted by Pitsligo View Post
    As I warned my mother, there is a bit of confusion sometimes when first reading the series: Two of the books, Peter Duck and Missee Lee, are unabashedly fantasy. They are meta-stories: tales told by one of the characters (Titty) to the other characters during school holidays when they are not engaged in the real-life adventures of the other books.
    huh, as a kid it never crossed my mind, but this makes a whole lot more sense now i actually think about it.

    I had the first one or two read to me before bed when i was young enough for that to be a thing, would recommend that if they are small enough!

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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    Start 'em young ....and they will become firm believers.......Seriously though you have to get them started when they can still embrace the magic of the story, and see themselves as a character...

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    Oh, a quick side note: Arthur Ransome was a product of his times, and there are a few (three? not many) instances in the books of characters casually using slurs that are today *extremely* offensive. Some AR fans feel the AR estate should bowdlerize the books to bring them up to current societal standards. I feel that the use of such language is a good opportunity to discuss the changing nature of language and society, and that the books should remain as they were written. Andrew Craig-Bennett feels very strongly otherwise, and he and I have (heatedly) gone head-to-head on this on an Arthur Ransome forum. Perhaps he will weigh in here. But the point of this is to give you a heads-up that the slurs are there, and that if you're reading them to your grandkids, or even just handing the books to your grandkids to read on their own, you might want to be prepared for a discussion.

    Alex

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    Quote Originally Posted by Pitsligo View Post
    Oh, a quick side note: Arthur Ransome was a product of his times, and there are a few (three? not many) instances in the books of characters casually using slurs that are today *extremely* offensive. Some AR fans feel the AR estate should bowdlerize the books to bring them up to current societal standards. I feel that the use of such language is a good opportunity to discuss the changing nature of language and society, and that the books should remain as they were written. Andrew Craig-Bennett feels very strongly otherwise, and he and I have (heatedly) gone head-to-head on this on an Arthur Ransome forum. Perhaps he will weigh in here. But the point of this is to give you a heads-up that the slurs are there, and that if you're reading them to your grandkids, or even just handing the books to your grandkids to read on their own, you might want to be prepared for a discussion.

    Alex
    Tue. I would like to see three words removed from future editions. Two sentences in PD and one in SW could be excised without making any real difference to anything; they are just throw away lines.

    Hwyl says that Missee Lee "does not stand up to modern sensibilities" and I have to agree, because the China that it describes - the China of the warlord period, say 1930 something - is so far from today's People's Republic. Pity, because it is a good book and the heroine is a composite of a famous lady pirate of the Pearl River Delta, who actually existed, and Soong ChingLing, who not only existed but was a friend of Ransome and who died as President of the People's Republic. You can visit her house in Shanghai and you get the oddest feeling that you have just stepped into Beckfoot!

    To get back to the subject, my father bought me SA for my seventh birthday, I read the books to my children starting at that age and later they read them themselves
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    Swallows and Amazons should be read first, and before the reader thinks the name "Titty"" is hilarious. Swallowdale is very much in the same vein as S&A. I love "Secret Water", because it's am eminently readable book, that does not have a real plot. "We didn't mean to go to sea " is generally and deservedly considered the second best book in the series. Missee Lee does not stand up to 21st century sensibilities.

    My children wanted a break between the books.

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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    I would think 8 or 10 on , Jim, It's pretty hard to get to get a kid interested in something like that now. Mine wouldn't read them but then they had their own boats and were doing it.
    I still get flashes from when I read them as a child, most recently lining up the leads to make the qilaqila pass into Vanua Balavu in the Lau group,Fiji. Nerve wracking the first time, with nearly 2 miles of straight line and coral reefs and patches all around. Just like wildcat island.
    Last edited by John B; 11-14-2017 at 01:48 PM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    I read Swallows and Amazons to my daughter chapter by chapter as a bed time story when she was about 7 or 8. She went on to read all the others. We liked all of them (I read them too) but Peter Duck was a favorite. My Sea Pearl WildCat was named for on e of the boats in the books. awesome stuff. The offensive words are a great conversation starter.
    Take Care,
    Steve W

    Honeoye Falls, New York
    Building a B & B Core Sound 20 Mark III "Jazz Hands"
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    A little video of the Suzy J and my youngest son

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    I discovered the Arthur Ransom books when I was about nine years of age and have been in love with them ever since! I tried to epose my grand children to them but, sadly, they were more interested in computer games. I do have a friend, who has a seven year old son hat I started on "We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea".
    Now the entire family is in love with the books and his parents are ordering an entire set!
    Jay

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    Wow!!! That was quick and very thorough!! I'll be getting the set for them and maybe we'll all get hooked. Thank you so much for the replies. Jim

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    Kids, and young adults are buying books again here, I might push my set at my grand nephews.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Goodine View Post
    Thinking of buying the series for my grandchildren but would like to know what age range they are best for and whether some of the books are better than others.
    Thanks in advance. Jim
    Amazing how close your name is to the publisher's: David R. Godine, Publisher (LINK).

    The books are great fun.

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Swallows and Amazons

    huh, as a kid it never crossed my mind, but this makes a whole lot more sense now i actually think about it.
    If you're interested, the bit of writing from which sprang Peter Duck is titled "Their Own Story," and is published in full in Christina Hardyment's companion volume, "Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint's Trunk." And, in confession, it seems I got the background a bit wrong: Hardyment presents it as the first two chapters of the first draft of Peter Duck.

    Alex

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