Friday, April 12, 2013

Childhood Adventures

by Ross Wagenhofer

I recently read Winter Holiday, the fourth book in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. Ransome is the sort of author who is able to capture the imagination of childhood and put in on the page without needing to declare this is a children’s story. In Winter Holiday, a troupe of kids plan and carry out an expedition to the “north pole.” Only in Ransome’s words, it isn’t the “north pole” but the North Pole, quotation marks absent.

I dearly wish I had read these books when I was much younger. Winter Holiday made me nostalgic for a childhood I had all but forgotten about: the large-scale adventure played out in the mind, the thrill that came with simple occurrences and new places, and the unique comradery of others who helped to construct and share, as if psychically, an imaginative world. Reading Ransome’s book made me remember the trips to the “volcano” down the street in suburban Iowa, or the construction of new “homes” out of left-behind construction palates and broken boards.  I remember now when the exploration of the woods behind my grandparent’s home in small-town Iowa was as important a quest as the search for El Dorado through the rainforest, each discarded old tire and tossed aside milk carton another path marker on our way deeper into the unknown wilderness.

Message at Cache Island (from the book)
Reading Winter Holiday as a kid would have been like reading a guidebook. I would have found inspiration in the notion of planning a wintertime trip to the North Pole, may have perhaps rounded my friends together and organized a trip to our own North Pole. I would have also been delighted by Ransome’s style of writing and storytelling. My early childhood reading habits was marked more by volume than by genre or type of book. After picture books I moved straight to things like Harry Potter and Redwall, eating up voraciously these series each made up of lengthy volumes. I wasn’t satiated by shorter books and flimsy adventures; I wanted full-on novels that told complete and engrossing stories.

There’s a large audience of kids who are rabid about reading longer books. The Swallows and Amazons series would have appealed to me, and kids like me, greatly. Even as an adult I find them fun reads with a very charming and likeable cast of characters.

What kinds of adventures did you have as a kid growing up? Did you visit any far off places as well? Drop us a comment below or share a tweet with us at @GodinePub! You can find the entire Swallows and Amazons series on our website, and even a biography of the series' author, Arthur Ransome. Winter Holiday is in the process of being reprinted, but in the meantime you can purchase it as an ebook on Google Play.

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