Usually in December I want to read wintery books, but this past week I reread two summery ones from my collection. Here’s the first. The story takes place among the San Juan Islands off the coast near Seattle. Children from two families are staying in a rented house in East Sound on Orcas Island with the parents of Steve, David, and Nora Hill, their friends Tommy, Jackie and Puss have joined them for the summer. Mr. Hill has rented a cruising ketch, The Wanderer, with enough cabin space for everyone, and they plan to cruise and camp among the islands. Plans change when three elderly aunts of the Hills arrive to visit, and Mr. Hill realizes the family can’t all leave. Steve Hill has a plan, though, he’s learned to sail in the past, all the children have, and he thinks they can sail the ship on their own. Eventually the children convince their parents to let them go, as long as they check in regularly by phone, and soon the expedition is off to explore the islands. Early in their travels they encounter a smaller sailboat, Rainbird, manned by a single boy who is hostile and unfriendly. Later, when The Wanderer makes camp on an uninhabited island, the boy sneaks onto their boat and steals food. The children are shocked, and brand him a pirate. They vow revenge, and begin a search for Rainbird and its owner, but soon bad weather takes their adventures in a more perilous direction.
Archie Binns is perhaps best known for his two books about Sea Pup, a boy and his pet seal. I like this adventure story better. Perhaps inspired by Arthur Ransome’s stories about kids sailing on their own and having adventures, it’s exciting and fun, though Binns is not as good a writer as Ransome, and it takes a while for the children to become distinguishable one from the other. I do like the plot, though, and the way the pirate and his own story gradually take center stage. Recommended, if you can find it.