Book Review: Peter Duck

Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome
5 out of 5 stars


The Swallows and Amazons are preparing for a peaceful sail down the Channel, with Captain Flint and their new Able-Seaman Peter Duck, when they are followed and attacked by real life pirates! The pirate captain, Black Jake, is determined to kidnap Peter Duck, who knows the location of a long-lost treasure, buried on Crab Island in the Caribbean Sea. Only the brave Swallows and Amazons, with all their sailing know-how, can bring their ship safely across the Atlantic to search for buried treasure with the evil pirates at their heels.

Just as wonderful reading it the second or third time! There is so much action and adventure, I couldn’t put it down! I love how the story guides you gradually from the everyday business of the ship into the fantastical plot twists, so that you barely notice that the story has taken a wild turn at the end. It all seems so perfectly plausible by the time you get there. Truly brilliant story-telling!

As always, I am completely in love with each and every character! The Walker family are so close to my heart, and the Amazon girls are deliciously full of moxie.

I especially like seeing how John and Nancy, as the two captains, are constantly engaged in a little friendly contest to see who has the best seamanship. It’s never aggressive, but keeps them on their toes, since they don’t want to be embarrassed in front of the other by making some mistake in their sailing. Little character details like this are what make the children so real and alive.

One of the things I adore about these stories is that in every book the characters are recognizing Susan’s tireless efforts on behalf of the crew. If it weren’t for Susan making sure that everyone got to bed on time, brushed their teeth, wore their scarf, and got their meals in a timely manner, there could never be any adventures. Without Susan taking care of all those things, none of them would be able to rush off to dig up buried treasure or sail anywhere. At least once or twice in each book, someone says, “If it weren’t for Susan, we would be nowhere.” I love how when there is a decision to be made, they all look to her for the final ruling. They respect her common sense, and know that she will make the right decision. It does my heart good to see how they all respect and appreciate her as she does most of the emotional work of the group.

Another thing I love about all these stories are the hidden lessons about telling the truth, never leaving a friend behind, obeying orders and being responsible, comforting others, being brave in a bad situation, admitting freely when you’ve made a mistake and apologizing, etc… But the lessons are so well-hidden within the narrative, that you would never realize you were learning them and admiring the characters who behave well although it’s sometimes hard for them to do so. Wonderful writing!

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