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For the Walker children, sailing the boat Swallow to an island for a camping trip is a fantastic adventure. But soon they find themselves under attack from the fierce pirates of the Amazon, Nancy and Peggy. And so begins the battles, alliances and discoveries in a summer like no other.
John, Susan, Titty and Roger return to the lake for another summer camping on their island with their old allies, Nancy and Peggy, otherwise known as the Amazon pirates. But immediately disaster strikes when the Swallows find themselves marooned ashore by the shipwreck of their boat. But if they can't have the island, there's always Swallowdale, the secret valley, hidden from the world and containing an extra secret concealed within it.
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.
'I was wrong,' said Captain Flint. 'He's not mad but bad. It isn't only eggs he wants. He wants to take the credit for it. You're quite right. It's up to us, it's up to the ship, to see he doesn't.'Dick's birdwatching discovery turns the cruise of the Sea Bear into a desperate chase. Not only do the Swallows and Amazons have to prove the facts of the case but they also have to dodge the savage natives and evade the ruthless pursuit of a fanatic egg-collector, determined to kill a pair of rare birds and steal the credit. Fortunately, Nancy has a few plans.
Reunited for the summer, the Swallows and Amazons with Dick and Dorothea launch a prospecting expedition to find the lost gold mine of the high hills above the lake. But the mining camp runs into all sorts of trouble: not only the danger of fire in the drought ridden countryside but also scary encounters with unsafe tunnels. Worst of all is the sinister Squashy Hat, who appears to be a rival prospector and who's certainly a spy - how can they keep working without him discovering what they've found?
'Well,' said Nancy, 'You know what it's like. Dark at teatime and sleeping indoors: nothing ever happens in the winter holidays.'Nothing - except a polar expedition, full of mountain rescues, blizzards, igloos, ice sailing and heroic work amidst the frozen wastes. For Dick and Dorothea, newcomers to the lake, meeting up with the Swallows and Amazons sweeps them into a wild adventure where they must prove their worth to the team
Tom Dudgeon has cast off a motor cruiser from its moorings to protect a coot's nest, but now the cruiser is searching high and low for him - even offering a reward. Tom accepts an invitation for a week's cruise to teach his new friends, Dick and Dorothea how to sail. You couldn't get a better sailor than Tom but can he really stay one jump ahead of his pursuers long enough to complete the voyage?
The Swallows and Amazons are sailing with Nancy and Peggy's Uncle Jim (better known as Captain Flint) when their hired deckhand tells them a tale of his younger days - a tale to set pulses racing and hopes shooting sky high. Soon their boat is on its way to a Caribbean treasure hunt and they find themselves up against shark, storm, earthquake - and the vilest pirate who ever eavesdropped at a porthole.
Nancy Blackett, the terror of the seas, has finally met a real pirate - the tiny, pistol-carrying Missee Lee, who has rescued them after their shipwreck off the coast of China. The only trouble is she wants to keep them. forever.
John, Susan, Titty and Roger, the crew of the Swallow, take on the job of mapping the mass of small islands round Pin Mill while living on the biggest one. But who are the mysterious savages who lurk in the islands - and is the tribal totem they find in their campsite a threat of attack. ?
The dreaded Great Aunt has invited herself to stay with Nancy and Peggy just as their friends Dick and Dorothea arrive for the Summer holiday. Nancy and Peggy have to become Martyrs, wearing dresses and reading poetry (but breaking out at night), while Dick and Dorothea become Picts, secret inhabitants of the country who must never let themselves be seen. It's a desperate gamble to keep everyone out of trouble - but can it possibly work against the eagle eyes of the fearsome Great Aunt?
It's great detective work that's needed now. Bill, Peter and Joe are falsely accused of setting boats adrift and the whole river is against them. Only Dick, Dorothea and Tom Dudgeon are there to stand by their friends and they soon set to work to investigate the crimes and trap the real criminals
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."
The poor old Amazons become Martyrs and the Ds Picts living in the woods, in Arthur Ransome's 11th adventure. The Ds can't wait to go and stay with Nancy and Peggy in the Lake District during the summer holidays. But when the Amazons' dreadful Great Aunt invites herself to stay too, the summer is threatened with dullness. Staying indoors and reading poetry is not what the Amazons had in mind. To save the Ds from the same fate they organise for them to stay in the Dogs' Home, a tumble-down hut in the woods. As long as no one discovers they're there they can sail all summer long.
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