Jonathan Cape Ltd, London, 1987
Hardcover, 384 pages
Suggested reading age: 9+
Reviewed by: Indrani Perera
Swallows and Amazons is a classic of English literature in the grand old adventure style. You know the books - ones where the kids go off on amazing adventures with nary an adult in sight. The difference with the Swallows and Amazons series of books, however, is that they are eminently believable. The adventures are thrilling and daring, filled with imagination but not so far-fetched that they appear ludicrous or unbelievable. A family friend lent me this book when I was twelve and I gobbled it up, nautical terms and all. Learning to sail a boat is still on my bucket list!
In Swallows and Amazons, the first book in the series, we meet Susan, John, Titty and Roger who are on holidays at Dixon's farm with their mother and baby sister. Their father is away in the navy and they are all keen sailors. They manage to convince their mother to let them camp out on an island in the river. They use their boat, the Swallow, to ferry across to the island their tents, sleeping bags, cooking equipment and food. Fresh supplies are rowed to them daily by the "natives" at the farm. The story describes how the Swallows meet the Amazons and the adventures they have together.
Older readers will be able to read this book, younger readers may need to have it read to them. It is quite dense and doesn't talk down. You may find yourself frantically googling nautical terms to explain them to your curious child!
Other titles in this series - Swallowdale, Winter Holiday, Peter Duck, Secret Water, Coot Club, We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea, The Picts and the Martyrs, The Big Six, Great Northern, Pigeon Post, Missee Lee.