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Swallows and Amazons (Swallows and Amazons #1)

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  22,214 Ratings  ·  656 Reviews
Swallows and Amazons
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 15th 1982 by Jonathan Cape (first published 1930)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jo Woolfardis
Read as part of The Infinite Variety Reading Challenge, based on the BBC's Big Read Poll of 2003.

Swallows and Amazons, despite it being a popular old-fashioned children's book that almost every adult in England would have read, has never been on my radar and I don't think I'd ever even heard of it before. I imagine it's because some people think that Titty would make me laugh (there was a titter, but I am English).

There's not a lot I can really say about this book, despite giving it five stars.
Sep 18, 2009 Kaethe rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kaethe by: Top 100 Children's
I wrote a review of this and it disappeared. It was a good review, too, nicely scathing about the tedium and the kids playing with matches and ending with a reference to Heart of Darkness as a metaphor for British colonialism.

That it disappeared only solidifies in my mind the idea that it was the finest review I've ever written, or ever will write.

"Boring bloody slog" will have to serve.

Library copy.
Jan 27, 2015 Manny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children
They sail around in boats and have jolly good fun.

I am amazed how little I remember about this book, which I know I read when I was about nine. Some of the things I read then I can recall in fair detail, and for many others there are still key scenes or plot elements that stay sharp. This one: total blank. Sorry, Mr. Ransome. Maybe aliens have operated on my brain.
Althea Ann
Aug 07, 2013 Althea Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like I heard about this book throughout my childhood [I believe that the author wrote the introduction to one of my favorite childhood books, The Far-Distant Oxus, which was heavily influenced by this book], but I never came across a copy. I finally got around to reading it...

I do wish I'd read it as a child, and I hope that kids today are reading it (although they probably aren't). It's the sort of book that just doesn't seem to get published today.

Four young siblings ask permission to c
This was a book that I never took to as a child. The sailing, the fantasy of being an explorer, making camps were appealing, but maybe too alien and unreal for an inner city child who occasionally got to go out on the row boats in London parks, or maybe it was simply the kind of childhood that I would have wanted as a child cooped up in a flat with no garden and cruelly forbidden from thundering down the stairs - like an elephant as my mother would have it despite her lack of acquaintance with d ...more
Jan 06, 2010 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure, younger
This is a superficially simple tale about four siblings spending a week camping on a small island. They meet two local sisters and play pirates with them. I'm sure if I had read it as a child myself I would have loved the concept. As an adult I found it a little hard to get into at first. Not much happens actionwise in the first half of the book. The kids set up camp and we get a lot of useful information about boating. However, as the days pass and the characters' personalities became more deve ...more
Jan 26, 2013 Penny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite-books
The book that truly made me fall in love with books. How I longed to be part of that little gang with freedom, boats, picnics, adventures etc.
I vividly recall passing my 11+ exam (those of you of a certain age will understand) and my parents buying me a 'proper' typewriter. How I adored that machine! I used to sit at my 'desk' typing out great chunks of this book. No idea quite why I did so, but I can only assume it was bound up with my love for it.
Dec 30, 2007 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrensbooks
My daughter Arwen always loved this book, and I found her a copy from 1939 this year for Christmas. So of course I read it.

It's among the most charming childrens' books I've ever read. It has a marvelous blending of real life and imagination (and I'm sure it was an inspiration to CS Lewis for his Narnia books. Though they soon go off into a purely imaginative land, they begin in a world where a wardrobe can be a doorway to another world.) Swallows and Amazons is like that, about the way that chi
May 05, 2013 Sam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is somewhat magical - it takes you back to a time when not only childhood was more innocent and carefree but life and the world itself more wholesome and adventurous. If I could choose any decade in which to live, the 20s would probably be first or second choice and Swallows & Amazons is testament to that. The whole novel is a mix of childhood delight in the power of imagination and the timeless appeal of the great outdoors. I think a lot of its charm comes from the fact that this ...more
I grew up reading Enid Blyton -- The Famous Five, The Various Happenings of Adventure, the boarding school stories (like Hogwarts without the magic) -- I loved the hearty, rosy-cheeked English children with their pluck and their tinned pineapple and potted meat sandwiches. There was usually an amusing talking parrot and/or foreigner too. I was too young to notice or be bothered by all the casual racism and misogyny which makes Blyton mostly unreadable now.

I never read Arthur Ransome until a few
Aug 02, 2007 CLM rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Better drowned than duffers; if not duffers, won't drown...

In this first book of the series, the Walker children's father gives permission for them to spend the summer camping out and sailing in the Lake District of England. They expect to spend their time exploring, making maps, improving their sailing skills - and do not expect pirates or rivalry from others on the lake!

I recently tried to read this aloud to my nephew. I found that really did not work because there was too much nature and sail
Joaquin Garza
Aug 03, 2016 Joaquin Garza rated it it was amazing
Se me atraganta la literatura juvenil actual. Soy de los primeros que no les hace clic la idea de que los muchachos que aprenden a leer hoy tengan que hacerlo –y emocionarse- entre una serie de distopías cutres y descafeinadas con protagonistas Mary Sues y triángulos amorosos bobos por un lado, o por el otro novelas hiperrealistas donde protagonistas infinitamente más sabios y sarcásticos que lo que su edad sugiere luchan contra todo tipo de estigmas sociales dignos de una novela naturalista.

Jennifer Black
Jun 18, 2011 Jennifer Black rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My husband read these books as a kid - I did not. He introduced them to me when we started dating, and we read them out loud together.

Now we have a 10 year old and we are enjoying reading the series out loud with her as well. She claims they're her favorite books (and to have unseated Harry Potter in that position is high praise from her indeed).

I do think they take a special kid or an adult with the right frame of mind to enjoy. Knowledge of sailing terminology is helpful. The plot doesn't move
Mar 24, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s
It's hard to comprehend now, when parents won't even let their kids play out in the front yard, that children at one time were allowed to roam free outdoors like this, sailing and camping and being resourceful, and letting their imaginations run wild. This a wonderful book that is too often forgotten and overlooked these days. Instead of buying marketing gimmicks like The Dangerous Book for Boys, do your kids a favor and let them read this.
UPDATE: Well, it's been nearly a year and we're nearing the end of the series. Still going strong and finding the books just as wonderful! Because of these books, Logan started taking wilderness awareness classes, got a pocket knife for his birthday, and basically began taking an interest in physical and outdoor things more. We've read many, many books, but I imagine these will be a big part of his memories of childhood reading. And I must put in a plug for the Brilliance Audio versions read by ...more
D.M. Dutcher
Mar 14, 2014 D.M. Dutcher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s, classic
I wasn't expecting this to be as compelling as it was. Exotic to the point of being alien.

Four children are on vacation with their mother. They've asked permission to take a boat out to a nearby island, and their absentee father grants it. The swallows, named after their ship the Swallow, set out and soon encounter a houseboat with a cranky "pirate," and another child-captained ship, the Amazon. The two tomboys on it become friends and play-adversaries to the swallows over the seven days they sp
One of my favourite children's books of all time. Not so well known in the States, but a children's classic in Britain.

John, Susan, Titty and Roger have gone to stay in the Lake country for the Summer with their mother while their father is away at sea. When they discover an island on the lake, they beg their mother to allow them to camp on the island for the remainder of the Summer holidays. So sailing out in the boat named "Swallow" they soon find that the island is not as uninhabited as they
Isaac Moss
Jun 16, 2016 Isaac Moss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book a lot. It was fun to hear about the children's adventures, and how they captured the Amazons on the island.
Jane Williams
Jan 13, 2013 Jane Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first met this as an extract in a Ladybird book - I suppose I'd have been about 4 at the time, and this would have been one of the first "real" books I met. A few years later, I got the full thing from the library, and was hooked. I read and re-read the series for years, and when we finally managed a visit to the Lake District, spent a lot of time exploring maps and lakes to find Wildcat Island and the rest of the places in the books.

Now, revisiting it as an adult, I'm still delighted, enthral

SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS is the fiirst book in a good, old-fashioned English juvenile series penned by Arthur Ransome and published in 193O. The book is a relaxing, realistic fiction read though it is somewhat dated and rather slow-paced for readers from our fast-paced age of television, film, and technology.

Swallows is the name of a sailboat used by the Walker children (John, Susan, Titty, and Roger), the main characters who are spending the summer at a large lake with their mother and toddler s
Louise (A Strong Belief in Wicker)
I wish I'd found this book when I was a kid. I would have loved it. Instead I devoured Enid Blyton. Is it just me, or is the plot of Five on a Treasure Island eerily evocative of Swallows and Amazons? I'm hoping to get my son to read it. He seems interested. He's already been through the Enid Blyton stage. I think he'd like this tale of childhood adventure. It has a lot still for the new adult reader though. I loved the language of this book- I'm totally intrigued with the concept of pemmican, l ...more
Karen Radcliff
Jan 20, 2016 Karen Radcliff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ah, being ill means all of these "currently reading" books are out of date. I love this whole series, and reading it was a revisit. I would recommend them to anyone. I read them with the Geeklet, generally, and they never disappoint: there is adventure, but we never have to be afraid of bad things happening (too much, anyway); there is tension, but happy resolution; there is challenge and facing the challenge. Characters who push themselves, who dream, who read classic books and envision themsel ...more
I'd like this series even more if I'd come to them as a child, but I like them an awful lot anyway. They're about a group of children who spend all of their holidays outside camping, sailing, hiking, and having adventures. There's marvelous character development throughout, idyllic settings, and a nice variety of plots (and the best telegram ever). These are books to which I really look forward to introducing Liam.
This was one of those "feel good" books, perfect for a tumultuous time in my life.

Arthur Ransome wrote a sweet book here of his adventures of a short summer vacation living on an island in a lake off the English coast as children. I loved how his mother set it all up for the neighbors to keep watch on the kids without interfering. I'm a much more fearful mother and was wondering throughout the whole book if I could let my kids do what they did. I loved the make-believe. I loved their knowledge
Elizabeth Moffat
Three and a half stars if I could...
I first came across Swallows and Amazons as a child and really enjoyed it, as a result I believe I borrowed the other books in the series from the library as fast as I could read them! Reading it again as an adult was fun and brought back many fond memories of the four children and their adventures on Wild Cat Island. The book was published in 1930 and was inspired by the author Arthur Ransome teaching the children of his friends, the Altounyans to sail one su
Ian Brydon
Oct 15, 2016 Ian Brydon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having recently dabbled in nostalgia and re-read Arthur Ransome’s ‘Winter Holiday’ and ‘Pigeon Post’ I suppose it was almost inevitable that I would find myself embarking on ‘Swallows and Amazons’ for the first time in some forty years. And why not! From the opening scene, with Roger ‘tacking’ up the field to check with his mother whether he would be allowed to join the rest of the Walker children camping on Wild Cat Island, through to the close, and the imminent return to the real world of scho ...more
You may or may not recall how I revisited the reading pleasures of my youth this fall and reread Kit Pearson’s beautiful Guests of War trilogy. These rereadings obviously stirred up many #feels and fond memories of when I first read these books, and I was reminded of who Norah and Gavin Stoakes are – what they like, dislike, etc etc. So when I saw Swallows and Amazons on my sister’s shelf when I was visiting her and my brother the other month, I decided to read it because a) I haven’t read a chi ...more
Aug 19, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a shame that the original illustrations were not used for the covers.
I was brought up on this marvellous series. It was probably the reason for my wanting to learn how to read as quickly as possible and not be tied to my mother reading out aloud!
Whether this book and the others will be appreciated today by children remains to be seen. What John, Susan, Titty, Roger, Nancy and Peggy, plus others, got up to unsupervised much of the time, is almost unthinkable nowadays although feasible in my
Jun 29, 2008 Wendy rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
As a child these were my favourite books, I loved stories of adventure and my family holidayed in the English Lake District where these books are set so I knew the places they visited.
Whilst on holiday I would imagine meeting the Swallows and Amazons on every lake. At school my friends and I would play Swallows and Amazons. My best friend Sarah and I, being the only ones who were truly obsessed by the books would take charge and we would, of course, be the Amazons. Sarah was always Nancy and I,
Jan 04, 2015 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was challenged to read this by Sue as she was appalled that I hadn't read it as a child. It was quite hard going at first, a bit jolly hockey sticks and very un-pc. However, I kept going and it was actually quite fun. It is dated and sometimes quite technical in its language, but the most shocking thing is that as a parent I could never envisage letting my children sail boats and live on an island by themselves for the summer - I know that says more about my issues of over-protection though! G ...more
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Arthur Michell Ransome was born in Leeds in 1884 and educated in Windermere and Rugby. His family spent their summers at Nibthwaite, to the south of Coniston Water.

In 1902, Ransome abandoned a chemistry degree to become a publisher's office boy in London. He used this precarious existence to practise writing, producing several minor works before Bohemia in London (1907), a study of London's artist
More about Arthur Ransome...

Other Books in the Series

Swallows and Amazons (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • Swallowdale (Swallows and Amazons, #2)
  • Peter Duck: A Treasure Hunt in the Caribbees (Swallows and Amazons, #3)
  • Winter Holiday (Swallows and Amazons, #4)
  • Coot Club (Swallows and Amazons, #5)
  • Pigeon Post (Swallows and Amazons, #6)
  • We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea (Swallows and Amazons, #7)
  • Secret Water (Swallows and Amazons, #8)
  • The Big Six (Swallows and Amazons, #9)
  • Missee Lee (Swallows and Amazons, #10)
  • The Picts & the Martyrs or Not Welcome at All (Swallows and Amazons, #11)

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“The island had come to seem one of those places seen from the train that belong to a life in which we shall never take part.” 10 likes
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