Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome, 1930

Re-reading this first in the series now, I realize that one of the reasons these never caught on (or were never published?) in the U.S. must be Titty’s name. She’s usually referred to as “able seaman,” but I can see American middle-schoolers howling over a name that I took and take for granted. But I didn’t know until looking it up right now (on the Arthur Ransome wikia) that it’s not a shortening of a longer name, but comes from “Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse” (a poem I knew from my much-loved edition of Jacobs’ English Fairy Tales). I’d tried to pick this up a few times since my childhood but hadn’t stuck with it, so I was surprised how well it held up now. The Walker family sails a boat, camps on an island, plays capture-the-boat with the two Blackett girls (Nancy the pirate captain, my hero!), and prove their innocence in a houseboat burglary. It was a compelling plot even at the age of 46, and I still identify strongly with John’s pride, Susan’s sense of responsibility, Titty’s thirst for solitary adventure, Roger’s happy-go-lucky enjoyment, Nancy’s toughness, and Peggy’s desire to follow her lead despite her marshmallow core. And there are 11 more to enjoy again! Whee!

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