Saturday, 18 January 2014

Happy 130th Birthday....Arthur Ransome

Arthur Ransome was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire on January 18th 1884. He was sent to school in Rugby and returned to Leeds to the Yorkshire College. He dropped out of university before he got his degree and started making a living by writing in London. In 1913, he was comissoned to write a guide on St Petersburg in Russia. During World War I, he worked for the Daily News as a reporter on the Eastern Front. After the Russian revolution, he became friends with Lenin and Trotsky. He was recruited by MI6 as a spy. His codename was S76.
He wrote the twelve books of the Swallow and Amazons series over a period of 17 years. He died on 3rd June, 1967 and was buried in Rusland, Cumbria.

A few years ago, we read Swallows and Amazons at our local Home Ed book group. The ages of the children at the time were between 12 and 5 ( with two tag-along toddlers). The general consensus was that they all enjoyed it and some families went on to read more of the series. My two were at the younger end of the group at the time, one of them being a tag-along toddlers. The Girl loved it, and we were all even happier when we borrowed the film to watch. It was one of my fave films as a kid. I always wanted to be Nancy Blackett ;) It's quite amazing to think that a book that was written in 1930 still appeals to today's children who sometimes seem to be surgically attached to screens :/

Unlike the majority of modern children, the children in the story had such freedom. Nobody bats an eyelid at them camping alone on the island, they have adventures in the dark and the skill to sail a boat alone. Arthur Ransome has created a lovely fantasy life where the children are free of adult supervision and everything turns out alright in the end. A very appealing idea to children that seems within the realms of possibility if only the grown-ups would leave them alone :)

Since the book group reading, The Girl has joined scouts and passed a couple of sailing courses. This makes it more appealing to re-read the book to them as she'll be able to tell us what some of the terminology means.

Here are some ideas to help celebrate Arthur Ransome's 130th birthday :)
- watching the film and compare it to the book
- learn some sailing knots;
- build a tent Swallows & Amazons stylie out of a sheet, a rope and two chairs;
- eat some 'squashed fly' garibaldi biscuits and drink ginger beer;
- pretend to be Roger pretending to sail up the hill;
- make a model boat and test it's seaworthiness;
- cook on an outdoor fire;
- find out about Robinson Crusoe;
- draw with charcoal;
- learn about lakes.

After our first reading and watching of the film way back when, The Girl produced her first animated short :)

Education Pack - mainly about a theatre production but scroll through for puzzles etc
Scholastic pack 
How to tie Knots

Origami sailing boat 
Bun Loaf recipe

All Things Ransome - a ton of information and links
The Arthur Ransome Society
Sailing Terminology
Coniston Water
Arthur Ransome Biography

Online activities:
Swallows & Amazons Trivia quiz 
Arthur Ransome Quiz
Online free sailing course

Old Peter's Russian Folk Tales MP3

Youtube video of behind the scenes filming of 1973 film

Places to visit:
Museum of  Lakeland Life & Industry
Ruskin Museum, Coniston
Museum of the Broads, Norfolk
Swallows and Amazons Adventure Days


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