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Swallows and Amazons

One of the read-aloud books we've enjoyed this fall is Swallows and Amazons. This was a really fun book to introduce to the kiddos, because it was one of Jeremy's favorites as a child. It ignited his love for seas and sailing.
The book is centered around the four older Walker children: John, Susan Titty, and Roger. They are on vacation with their mother in the Lake District of England. There is a sailboat (the Swallow) at their cottage; after getting permission from their father, and swearing not to be duffers, they set sail to deserted tiny island to camp. While on the island they meet a group of sailing sisters - the Blacketts, owners of the Amazon. They pair up with them to wage war against Captain Flint - the Blacketts' reclusive uncle.

The book is full of exploring, discovery, and imaginative play. Most of the adventure surrounds the Walkers and the Blacketts having a capture-the-boat-contest to see who should be commander of their fleet. There is also suspense about some misunderstandings with Captain Flint.

Not only did the book spark an interest in sailing but my kiddos were also left hungry to learn more about the wildlife mentioned. Without being preachy, the book also offers a picture of solid sibling relationships. It was nice to read about siblings working together and acknowledging each others strengths. Lastly, it exhorted me as a mom to spur on my children's imagination and to meet them in their places of play.
I revel in finding ways to build upon the books that we read. I usually start by finding other books that coincide. Our favorite character from the book was Titty; she's skilled at what we would call traditional feminine arts like writing and sewing but she's also has a spunky 'tomboy' streak. I personally like that she didn't fit into a box. I was delighted when I found Dare the Wind: The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud. It's about another girl who is also drawn to the sea, and who goes on to set the fastest sailing record from New York to San Francisco. The book is a delight to read and it's watercolor illustrations are gorgeous

The cormorants mentioned in the book caught my kiddos attention, but we had trouble finding any books specifically about them. I stumbled upon Cory the Cormorant at our library's book sale and it was such a happy find. It uses a quaint story of a grandma type women befriending a cormorant to teach about the birds life and habits.

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown is a charming story. A little kitten visits the island and watches it go through the seasons and learns a lesson about how we are all connected. The book is a Caldecott winner, so the the illustration are of course superb
I also printed off some sailing nomenclature cards and coloring pages for the kids to go through in free moments during school time. Some sailboat mystery adding sheets added a bit of fun on a review day for Mini Man and Little Lady.
The kids and enjoyed working on our dexterity by practicing boating knots. We found a couple different knot tying videos on YouTube. We also made some sailor knot bracelets for ourselves and a few of our friends. Once they learned to tie a couple knots it was a great activity to have them do during read-aloud time. Another activity the kiddos did while I was reading was copying and coloring maps related to the book; the maps can be found here
Little Lady is taking a hand-sewing class at our co-op and wanted to make a swallow flag like Titty. Mini Man is also a huge Titty fan so he wanted to give it a try too. It was so sweet watching Little Lady coach him along.
Our favorite activity, though, was painting our own Swallows with Dad. Jeremy is currently teaching an evening watercolor course at a local university - we felt super lucky to have our own special class. :)
Our finished work...can you guess which one everyone painted?
If you've read Swallows and Amazons and are looking for a Christmas read-aloud then you should check out book four of the Swallows and Amazons series, Winter Holiday. We will definitely be reading it over the next couple of weeks. 


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