My friend Molly is running a delightful series of guest posts from her friends about their favorite books from childhood. The first part of my contribution (because I never did learn to keep it snappy) went up today:
When I told my mother about this blogging assignment, she pointed out that of all the noteworthy books from a seriously bibliophilic childhood, there was really only one book (or, rather, series of books) that I could choose: the Swallows and Amazons novels by eccentric Englishman Arthur Ransome. …
…While some later novels — particularly Pigeon Post and Great Northern? – take on more serious “adult” concerns such as the danger of drought and the importance of protecting endangered species, the stories remain child-centered and full of imaginative adventure. My only caution for parents would be that they are, as with all works of fiction, a product of their time — in this case early twentieth-century imperial Britain. The children imagine themselves as British adventurers in a world for of friendly and unfriendly “natives” (the adults), and like all children sometimes reflect the prejudices of their elders. Much like the presence of Native Americans in Laura Ingalls Wilders’ Little House books or the misogyny with which Susan Pevensie is treated in The Chronicles of Narnia, the problems with race (and to a lesser extent gender) in Ransome’s work can hopefully be treated with light parental skepticism that encourages critical thinking rather than serving as cause to dismiss the series overall. As a child for whom Swallows and Amazons fuelled literally years worth of imaginative outdoor play, I can’t but hope future generations will find as much pleasure in them as I have.
Check out the whole post (and the rest of the series!) over at Molly’s blog, first the egg.