Winter holidays can be just as fun as summer with the Swallows and Amazons!
Arthur Ransome was born in Leeds in 1884. He had an adventurous life - as a baby in he was carried by his father to the top of the Old Man of Coniston, a peak that is 2,276ft high! He went to Russia in 1913 to study folklore and in 1914, at the start of World War I he became a foreign correspondent for the Daily News. In 1917 when the Russian Revolution began he became a journalist and was a special correspondent of the Guardian. He played chess with Lenin and married Trotsky's personal secretary, Evgenia Petrovna Shelepina. On their return to England, he bought a cottage near Windermere in the Lake District and began writing children's stories. In a 1958 author's note, Ransome wrote: "I have been often asked how I came to write Swallows and Amazons. The answer is that it had its beginning long, long ago when, as children, my brother, my sisters and I spent most of our holidays on a farm at the south end of Coniston. We played in or on the lake or on the hills above ... Going away from it we were half drowned in tears. While away from it, as children and as grown-ups, we dreamt about it. No matter where I was, wandering about the world, I used at night to look for the North Star and, in my mind's eye, could see the beloved sky-line of great hills beneath it. Swallows grew out of those old memories. I could not help writing it. It almost wrote itself." He published the first of his children's classics, the twelve Swallows And Amazons books, in 1930. In 1936 he won the first ever Carnegie Medal for his book, Pigeon Post. He died in 1967.
Winter Holiday is my favourite Arthur Ransome, the one into
which I want to walk even now - if only it would just snow. Its
depiction of the Lake District in winter is totally compelling. You
can teach yourself to skate from Ransome's descriptions of the
first tentative pushes across the ice-bound tarn * Guardian *
The children are kind to each other, the parents are loving, and there's no violence - it's hard to imagine nowadays, and it's all the more charming for that * Daily Telegraph *
Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome is 80 years old but it remains a delightfully fresh read * Scotsman *
Full of nostalgia for a time when summer holidays seemed to go on forever, unaccompanied children could sail off on adventures together, and ginger beer was ever-present. And the appeal of such things still remains * Independent *
So what makes these different to any other set of classics? In a moment of inspiration Random House had the bright idea of actually asking Key stage 2 children what extra ingredients they could add to make children want to read. And does it work? Well, put it this way...my 13-year-old daughter announced that she had to read a book over the summer holiday and, without any prompting, spotted The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas...and proceeded to read it! Now, if you knew my 13-year-old daughter, you would realise that this is quite remarkable. She reads texts, blogs and tags by the thousand - but this is the first book she has read since going to high school, so all hail Vintage Classics! * National Association for the Teaching of English *