A Book Blog.

Category: children’s

They Both Liked Dogs by Elinor Brent Dyer

“They Both Liked Dogs” is about two cousins, both named Frederica. One has grown up in Burma and the other in Tasmania, after moving around the world a great deal. Having reached the age of 14, both girls are in need of a home in England so that they can go to school. Their young aunt Mollie offers to take them in. The girls are very different: one is spoilt and selfish, and the other is really rather too old and responsible for her age. Mollie has a German Shepherd dog and the girls react differently to him, according to their personalities. Ms Brent Dyer makes it clear that girls who are afraid of big dogs are really rather silly!

The Burmese Frederica, also known as Erica, is given a wire-hair terrier, while the other Frederica, also known as Freddie, is given an Alsation pup. (Ms Brent Dyer refers to the breed as Alsation rather than German Shepherd). The girls go to school and do well, in varying degrees, and Freddie takes up showing dogs as a hobby. There are a number of adventures: including two yobs trying to rob the house and being “dissuaded” by Mollie’s dog, and school adventures. Until Erica learns not to be so self-centred and Freddie learns that people’s characters are not all black-and-white. And Mollie? Well, Mollie meets a very nice young man. And shock horrors to anyone who has read the Chalet School books, he is not a doctor! I really enjoyed the book. It was published in 1938 and re-published in 2012 by Girls Gone By Press and is still in print.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

If it were not for a forthcoming Open University course on children’s literature, I would probably not read “Swallows and Amazons”. I have glanced it once or twice, out of curiosity: after all, I do love children’s books. But I think it is important to have an interest in sailing to really appreciate the book and the series which came after it.

The story so far: the Walkerchildren; John, Susan, Titty and Roger are on holiday in the Lake District. Being as their father is a sailor, in the Royal Navy and their mother grew up in SydneyHarbourin Australia, they are a boat-mad family. After consultation with their father by post, as he is away in the ChinaSeas, the children are allowed to take their boat Swallow and camp on an island in the lake. Their mother has made their tents and they sail across the lake every morning to buy milk and other essentials from a farm. As if it were not enough of an adventure on it’s own, they think of themselves as the crew of a sailing ship, with the people on the shore being the Natives.

The camp was invaded by pirates: two girls named Nancyand Peggy, who sail a little boat called Amazon. The girls have declared war on their unsympathetic uncle, who really only wants a little space and quiet in which to write a book. After an encounter with the grumpy uncle, henceforth known as Captain Flint, a retired pirate, the Walker children have also declared war on the poor man. They have signed an agreement to form a combined war party, but to be free to attack each other whenever they can. I’ve got as far as the Walkers sailing off, leaving Titty behind as a lookout, while they attempt to capture the Amazon. All the while, knowing that the Amazon pirates are probably embarking on a mission to capture Swallow.

It’s all good fun and I am enjoying the book. However, there are a lot of nautical terms and it seems to be assumed that the reader is as mad about boats as the Walkers. The Arthur Ransome society started up a club to encourage his fans to go off on adventures of their own. I can understand the appeal of it all, but it is not for me.

This book is a welcome change from today’s “issue” books. In Swallows and Amazons, the only issue is over the mystery of why Captain Flint dislikes the children. Thank heavens for books written in 1930!

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