Swallows and Amazons is a seriously wonderful set of books that I wish I had discovered earlier. I wished I had been able to read them to my children; but am instead forced to read them to my grandchildren. And use them to help inspire the Bobtails series.
There are two overarching wonderful features of this series as a whole. Two things that set these books apart from so much of the modern drivel.
The first is an issue of style. The author does a marvellous job of using language to separate the books into two parts: one part where the characters are children doing childrenish things. The second is when they begin to role play, and the oldest boy turns into ‘captain’, his sister ‘first mate’, and the youngest boy ‘ship’s boy’. The author weaves the stories between these two things… moving back and forth from a child who needs to eat his vegetables or clean his teeth… and the ship’s boy who has to bail out the ship.
The second issue stands in stark contrast to modern parenting: the parents in these books let their children do far, far more than any modern parent. Our society stands in contrast to pretty much every previous society in how little we allow our children to do. Swallows and Amazons shows scenes ranging from five rather young children allowed to spend several nights on an island by themselves, after sailing there… all the way to month long trips with their uncle alone in a sailboat.
I would encourage every parent, even those who perhaps disagree with giving children this kind of freedom, to read these books to their children and discuss them together.