Swallows and Amazons in the year 2009

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Posted by LukeDolman on January 07, 2009 at 20:14:50 user LukeDolman.

Early in the decade that taste forgot - the 1980s obviously - my junior school teacher brought in a battered copy of Swallows and Amazons and bravely attempted to read it to a class consisting of ten year olds from various backgrounds, but mainly the local council estate. "Miiiiisssss...." whined one horrid little scrote after the teacher had read about a page and a half "Do we have to listen to this? It's reeeeally boring." At that, yet more scrotes and scrotettes felt emboldened to vocalise their boredom and the teacher stopped reading, never to attempt it again. I don't remember what she tried to read us next.

As a fanatical devotee of AR by that age, I wasn't so much shocked that the scrotes didn't like it (depressingly predictable) as intensely angry, upset and offended that such a wonderful book - MY book - should be dismissed as "boring" after such a short trial. It's a memory that resurfaces every time I walk into a book shop and see the AR books still in print, still sitting on the shelf and still, apparently, being bought. I've even found them in our local Borders books here in Stamford, Connecticut.

"So where is Luke rambling off to with this??" I am sure you're asking... Well, I was wondering how many Swallows and Amazons books get sold these days, who buys them and how long we can expect them to be published? If the 'average' kid in 1982 thought they were dull and outdated then what about the youth of 2009? I know my own kids are perhaps as fanatical about the books as I was back then, but who else is reading them??

This isn't to say I'm feeling negative about this. It's more a feeling of bemused thankfulness that enough people out there, even in places where AR is virtually unknown, still think these are books they want to buy and read and pass on to their offspring. In an age where it seems Just William got himself a hoody and uses his pocket knife for sticking rival gang members, the fact that those AR books are still there on the shelf in the book store keeps something alive that I can't quite put into words. But it's a great something nonetheless.


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