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Arthur Ransome was born on January 18, 1884, in Leeds, where his father was a Professor of History. His father was a lover of the hills and lakes of Furness, and carried the baby Arthur up to the top of Coniston Old Man (later to become 'Kanchenjunga' in the books) when he was only a few weeks old. Every summer, he took his family by train to Greenodd, complete with their belongings packed into a large tin bath, and then by cart along the valley to Lowick and, finally, to Nibthwaite, on the shores of Coniston Water.
It was to be a long time before the memories came to life in Swallows and Amazons and the rest of the books about the children who sailed and explored the lakes and mountains of England. Always fired by ambition to be a writer, Arthur Ransome took his first job with a London publisher and then with the famous newspaper, the Manchester Guardian, for whom he worked for many years as a foreign correspondent.
As a young man, Ransome spent many more happy holidays on the shores of Coniston with his friends the Collingwood family. Mr and Mrs Collingwood treated Arthur as a son and he pays them grateful recognition in his autobiography by saying 'My whole life has been happier for knowing them'. He spent hours on Peel Island, which was to become famous all over the world as Wildcat Island, picnicking there with the Collingwood daughters Dora and Barbara.
This exciting winter adventure for the Swallows and Amazons brings new friends; brother and sister Dick and Dorethea, as well as new challenges, as the lakes are frozen over and camping is impossible. To entertain themselves the children set off on an adventure to the North Pole. As ever, Ransome’s attention to the detail of the countryside and his fine observation of the characters and their interactions makes gripping reading.
A thrilling adventure for the Swallows and Amazons now in much bigger boats than before and out on the wide, wide sea and on the track of treasure. This time, they are not alone; their boats are being followed by the Viper with Black Jake at the helm. Will he get to the treasure before they do? Resourceful as ever, and surviving all kinds of conditions, the Swallows and Amazons are as ingenious and inventive as ever. STOP PRESS: Did you know that Arthur Ransome's boat, Peter Duck, has been beautifully restored by a fellow author who, inspired by Ransome's boat and his novels has written a wonderful trilogy that fans of Peter Duck, Swallows and Amazons and Swallowdale will devour? It is called the Strong Winds trilogy. In a nutshell it's Swallows and Amazons for the 21st century but with a modern twist. It really is very special and will be enjoyed by the whole family. The titles in the trilogy in order are The Salt-Stained Book, The Ravelled Flag and Ghosting Home. CLICK HERE to read an article by Julia Jones, which was inspired in part by Arthur Ransome’s sailing adventures and in particular by Peter Duck, the boat which she was brought up on and which had previously been owned by Arthur Ransome.
The Swallows and Amazons are back in the lake district for a second set of adventures. They are all set to camp on the island again but the plans go awry when the Swallow is ship wrecked and an elderly great aunt threatens to visit. Luckily, the Swallows find a wonderful hidden valley for new their camp site and another set of adventures is soon under way. STOP PRESS: Did you know that Arthur Ransome's boat, Peter Duck, has been beautifully restored by a fellow author who, inspired by Ransome's boat and his novels has written a wonderful trilogy that fans of Peter Duck, Swallows and Amazons and Swallowdale will devour? It is called the Strong Winds trilogy. In a nutshell it's Swallows and Amazons for the 21st century but with a modern twist. It really is very special and will be enjoyed by the whole family. The titles in the trilogy in order are The Salt-Stained Book, The Ravelled Flag and Ghosting Home. CLICK HERE to read an article by Julia Jones, which was inspired in part by Arthur Ransome’s sailing adventures and in particular by Peter Duck, the boat which she was brought up on and which had previously been owned by Arthur Ransome.
Children, boats and adventure, the classic story of Swallows and Amazons laid down a model for this type of fiction. Having set sail for the island in the middle of the lake in their boat Swallow, the four Walker children set up camp and enjoy their freedom and independence. Then the two Blackett sisters arrive in their boat Amazon. How the two families co-exist and become firm friends as they enjoy shared adventures in the outdoors is a perfect introduction to a very different way of life.
February 2011 Guest Editor Tim Bowler has chosen this book for the enduring appeal of Arthur Ransome adventures: "I loved all the Swallows and Amazons books as a boy. Ransome's genius is that he doesn't just give you the children's adventures but their fantasy adventures as well. You sail in their boats but you also become the pirates and explorers they pretend to be. We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea is different, however. Here there is no make-believe, just raw drama. The children find themselves in a sailing boat being driven out to sea by a furious storm. The depiction of the storm and the children's struggle to survive contains some of Ransome's finest writing."
Matt Dickinson, our Guest Editor for January 2013 - 'As far as I can remember this was the book that turned me into a reading addict! I absolutely loved it, and to this day can remember the excitement of going to a bookshop in Hemel Hempstead High Street with my mother (aged about eleven) to find the next book in the series. The story is pure escapism—sailing on remote Lake District waters, lighting open fires, fishing for trout, skirmishes with ‘pirate enemies’ and campsites beneath the stars on tiny beaches. I never had a summer like that but I often think my love of the wilderness might have come (at least in part) from this skilfully told tale and the books that followed. Sadly, I never learned to sail a little boat. Or light a fire by rubbing sticks. But perhaps there’s still time . . .' A favourite of Philip Pullman: "As clear and pure as Mozart."
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