Page turners from the past

After seeing recently that there is a radio adaptation of The Silver Sword available on Radio 4 (episode three up there at the moment), and the news that the BBC are to start filming Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazonsbooks I had read as a child rushed from the dusty back room of my memory for the first time in years.  Goes to show that the good ones usually end up making a lasting impression.

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The Magic Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton) – I later devoured all the Famous Five books, all the Secret Seven books, and most of the Adventure series, but this one of the first Enid Blyton books I read.

The Coral Island (R. M. Ballantyne) – Three boys are shipwrecked on a coral island following a huge storm. Exciting, idyllic, thrilling, it’s a great adventure story but one that’s very much of its time (the book was written in 1857, a golden age for the British Empire, and consequently the white man brings learning and civility while native inhabitants are savages and cannibals). As a side note, William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies in part as a response to this book.

Brother in the Land (Robert E. Swindells) – Horrifying and tender; a post nuclear apocalypse story with looting, gangs, and survival, written for children. As good as it sounds.

The Silver Sword (Ian Serraillier) – Three children search for their father after being separated from him. A street urchin joins them. It’s set in occupied Poland during the Second World War, and based on a true story – at least according to Wikipedia.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Robert C. O’Brien) – Read this at primary school, it’s the only one that really stands out from ‘reading time’ (I think there was also one we read called Flour Babies). There were two sequels to the book and a friend tells me that a very good animated film was made from the story.

The Machine Gunners (Robert Westall) – Find a shot down German plane, take the machine gun, and build a fortress in case the Germans attack. Classic.

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And Willard Price! Almost slipped my mind. The adventures of Hal and Roger Hunt, sons of an animal collector father, as they travel around the world in search of unique specimens for their father’s zoo.  There are 14 books in the series, but it was African Adventure (tracking of a man eating leopard, a secret and deadly Leopard Society) that I remember best.


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