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Swallows and Amazons (Swallows and Amazons #1)

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  15,597 ratings  ·  442 reviews
John, Susan, Titty and Roger sail their boat, Swallow, to a deserted island for a summer camping trip. Exploring and playing sailors is an adventure in itself but the island holds more excitement in store. Two fierce Amazon Pirates, Nancy and Peggy, challenge them to war and a summer of battles and alliances ensues.
Hardcover, 351 pages
Published March 1967 by Jonathan Cape (first published 1930)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Althea Ann
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
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Tim
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
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Kaethe
Jul 16, 2014 Kaethe rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Miriam
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-Maat
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 but didn't have - safer to leave the book on the shelf rather than feel disappointed.

However there was a time when I had a compass that I carried about whenever I could and a big ungain
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Sam
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
MostlyDelores
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
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Jennifer Black
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
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CLM
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
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Jenne
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
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Cheryl
Feb 10, 2012 Cheryl rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
Oh dear. Not so good, no. All the bits about sailing, about reefs and halyards etc, were a waste of time for those not in the know. If there had been explanatory sketches, maybe that would have been better.

And the cardboard characters. John the eldest, concerned about honor and duty. Susan the next, little mother. Titty next, heroine twice over. And Roger the pup. None of them grew in wisdom or maturity significantly. Ok, Titty is a little more able to focus on a task, and Roger can swim. Wow. T
...more
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
Kristine

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
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Wendy
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,
...more
Kate
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.
Margaret
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.
Rebecca
Breach of Trades Description Act.
Omits mosquito blackened skies, ticks, and hypothermia.

*thumbs nose at nostalgia*
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
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D.M. Dutcher (Sword Cross Rocket)
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
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Jane Williams
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
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Logan
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
Cleo
Swallows and Amazons was an interesting, but rather weird, book. It was entertaining, but also racist and really sexist. However, what can you expect from a book published in 1930? Swallows and Amazons is the quintessential British adventure tale...camping, sailing, fishing, etc. Four children set off to explore an island on their summer holiday and have all sorts of experiences. They call themselves the Swallows, after the name of their boat. The Walker children (a.k.a. the Swallows) encounter ...more
Nicola Waldron
I've been reading this to my eight year-old son this summer, and it has been a wonderful experience (six year-old not so into it -- not ready yet). Bringing back lovely memories. Interesting to read a book that feels, to the 21st century eye, so unedited -- lots of long descriptions to plow through -- and how I kind of miss this lazy-river narrative approach in contemporary works sometimes. Also it occurs to me this is a great choice for military families, since the children have their great adv ...more
Tim
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
...more
Melinda
This is the first book of a 12 book series, written by Arthur Ransome.

You are introduced to the Walker family taking a summer holiday during the 1930's in the Lake District where years before the mother had spent some of her holidays. The father is in the Royal Navy onboard a ship based in Malta but heading to Hong-Kong. The children are John, Susan, Titty, and Roger. Baby Vicky appears in this book, but remains with the mother at the lakeside cottage. Hilariously enough, Baby Vicky really is n
...more
Nikki
I really didn't like Swallows and Amazons when I was younger, and having read it now for Children's Lit, I'm not really sure why. It's rather like tons of other stuff I read, like the Famous Five books and the like.

I didn't love it now, given that it is like so much else that I read, and it's quite slow, but I can see why people think highly of it. It's got quite a realistic feel to it: the parents' reactions are believable, the kids feel pretty much like kids (to an adult reader, anyway, which
...more
Christian Dabnor
SPOILERS AHEAD

I feel like one of those people that strikes down holy cows just to get a reaction, but... weak characters, a shallow morality, no real plot, no character arc... all these things make for a poor story in my opinion. Some particular things that annoyed me - a policeman comes to investigate the camp. Nancy tells him to clear off, which he does, because his mother used to work for Nancy's. So, essentially, there's a real support of class structure here. It's not even as if Nancy has d
...more
Kathryn
I only made it maybe 1/3 of the way through, alas. I know a lot of people absolutely LOVE this series, but it did not really grab me. The idea is sweet and fun and part of me wanted very much to join the Swallows and Amazons on Wild Cat Island, camping and sailing round the Lake District and making up all kind of adventures. But, alas, I found the action boring rather than enchanting, and the characters just weren't that vivid -- no new chums found here. Perhaps I'll come back to it at another t ...more
Karol
What a well-written book - written from the prospective of children without "talking down" in any way. I loved the childrens' imagination as they encountered various situations.

I pondered the freedom they were given to basically live on an island during the summer - but throughout the book the reader saw that the community was actually keeping a fairly close watch on them. Things are different today; children aren't given as much freedom to just be kids and learn through a combination of real an
...more
Wendy Orr
I loved this book as a child and reread it many times; I've just listened to it in an excellent audio edition, read by Gareth Armstrong, was thrilled to see how it's stood up to the test of time. First published in 1930, probably the most glaring anachronism to today's reader would be the girl's name of Titty. If the smirk factor can be got over, it's still a great middle grade adventure story.
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Amazon 7 43 Aug 10, 2014 11:20PM  
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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
More about Arthur Ransome...
Pigeon Post (Swallows and Amazons, #6) Swallowdale (Swallows and Amazons, #2) Winter Holiday (Swallows and Amazons, #4) We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea (Swallows and Amazons, #7) Secret Water (Swallows and Amazons, #8)

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“BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WONT DROWN” 34 likes
“Swallows and Amazons for-ever!” 8 likes
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