Saturday, August 16, 2008

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome is a delightful story about the children of an English family and their sailing adventures. Set in the interwar period, the story is suffused with an innocent charm that would be impossible after the beginning of WWII. With their little dinghy, Swallow, the four Walker children explore the lake where they are vacationing. Having received permission to camp out on a small island, they embark on an expedition as explorers (armed with the references to cannibalism that seem obligatory in literature about British children who fancy themselves explorers*). The grown-ups who live on shore become the "natives", and the charcoal-burners in the forest become (appropriately, in a way) the "savages". The Walker children soon encounter a pair of self-styled pirates, the Blackett girls, who are ruthless in a friendly sort of way. There ensues a competition to capture the other side's boat and attain flagship status. Explorers and pirates join forces against the Blackett girls' uncle, a friendly pirate gone sour. When they are witness to a burglary, the children become embroiled in "native" affairs and end up saving the day. The book is refreshingly free of mean-spiritedness and small-mindedness. It is a delight to follow the children's colorful imaginations as they transform corned beef into pemmican, lemonade into grog, pikes into sharks, and themselves into explorers and pirates. The book should evoke nostalgia in anyone whose childhood games were shaped by strong imaginations, whether they be seasoned sailors or landlubbers.

This book is the first in a series of twelve books by Arthur Ransome, originally published in 1930.

* See p.136 of the 1985 Godine edition. "'This is where the savages have had a corroboree,' said Titty. 'They cooked their prisoners on the fire and danced round them.' 'Yelling like mad,' said Roger."

Summer books, continued

9. My Babysitter Is a Vampire by Ann Hodgman
10. My Babysitter Has Fangs by Ann Hodgman
11. My Babysitter Bites Again by Ann Hodgman
12. The Mother Hunt (Nero Wolfe) by Rex Stout
13. Where There's a Will (Nero Wolfe) by Rex Stout
14. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
15. Might As Well Be Dead (Nero Wolfe) by Rex Stout

I'm currently reading yet another Nero Wolfe mystery, and there is a non-fiction book about the history of smallpox vaccination that I could have added to the list weeks ago, if only I had finished with the endnotes.

Gratuitous Miao Photo for Caturday:

Kemi in the sun(Kemi bear in black and white)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Reading Update, May - July

My reading lately has been... slow. I only read two books in May - two short detective stories at that. I'm starting to read more again, and hopefully more substantive posting here will follow. I'm making a little headway in my goal to read Newberry books (Calico Bush being a Newberry Honor book, I believe), and my goal to make it through Papa Miao's treasure trove of detective fiction. I'm also inching through the Decades Challenge - though (horrifyingly) I've only posted about one of those books, back in early March.

Here's a list of the books I've read in the past three months, followed by a little update on the Decades Challenge.

Books read
  1. Murder Makes the Wheels Go 'Round by Emma Lathen
  2. The Golden Spiders (Nero Wolfe) by Rex Stout
  3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  4. Calico Bush by Rachel Field
  5. The Silent Speaker (Nero Wolfe) by Rex Stout
  6. The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig
  7. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
  8. Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell
1850 The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
(Read in June)
1870 An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott (Read in April)
1880 Washington Square by Henry James (Read in March)
1917 Anne's House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery (Read in March)
1931 Calico Bush by Rachel Field (Read in June)
1984 by George Orwell
(Read in July)

More later!