For anyone who loves sailing and adventure, Arthur Ransome's classic Swallows and Amazons series stands alone. Originally published over a half-century ago, the 12 books are still eagerly read by children and adults alike - by all those captivated by the world of adventure and imagination. Such longevity is not only due to Ransome’s unparalleled gift of storytelling, but also his championing of qualities such as independence and initiative; virtues that appeal to every generation, whether young or old.
In Missee Lee, the original cast of the famed series is sailing under the stars and the command of Captain Flint in the South China Sea when Gibbet, their pet monkey, grabs the captain's cigar and drops it in the fuel tank. In minutes, the ship is ablaze (and doomed), and our seven luckless protagonists are adrift in two small boats. They make their way to land, only to find themselves the captives of one of the last remaining pirates operating off the China Coast.
However, Missee Lee, as it turns out, is no ordinary pirate; her father had sent her off to Cambridge University to prepare her for a life as a teacher, but when he dies she finds herself struggling to hold together the Three Island Confederation (Tiger, Turtle, and Dragon) and to be recognised as his legitimate heir.
Arthur Ransome was a prolific writer of children's books. Born in Leeds, in 1884, it was his father, a nature-loving history professor, who inspired his love of the outdoors and nurtured a passion for fishing. As a child he enjoyed active, outdoor holidays: sailing, camping, and exploring the countryside. He used many of these holiday settings for his children's stories, notably the much-loved Swallows and Amazons, a book that sits comfortably in the category of ‘timeless classic’. In 1936 he won the first ever Carnegie Medal for the sixth book in the Swallows & Amazons series, Pigeon Post.
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