No Boats on Bannermere

Geoffrey Trease

From the beginning, this book enchants and delights, its author bringing a well-developed sense of humor to what could be a silly little children's book. Trease was well known for writing historical works for juniors when he was accosted by two young girls who asked if he ever wrote books about schools. He responded that there were enough of those already, with their midnight feasts and such. The girls interrupted to ask for a story about regular people in day schools, not boarding schools. Thus were born No Boats on Bannermere (1949), and the four novels that follow it: Under Black Banner (1951), Black Banner Players (1952), Black Banner Abroad (1954) and The Gates of Bannerdale (1956).

We meet Bill first as he listens in on a conversation between his mother and his aunt, with interesting talk about a possible big change ahead. A deceased aunt has left Mother a cottage in the Lakes District, with the restriction that she and her children, Bill and Sue, must live there for five years in order to keep the inheritance. So, the family packs and moves to Bannermere, where they discover a lake, an island and a boathouse complete with boat! Ready to camp on the island, Bill and Sue are dismayed to discover that the local landowner, Sir Alfred, who owns much of the property in the area, has issued orders that no one is to go to the island, nor indeed even take a boat onto the lake.

The children join forces with two friends from their new schools, and set out to solve the mystery: what is Sir Alfred hiding? The discovery of a skeleton on Sir Alfred's property leads to an inquest, and justice is eventually served. With ancient burial sites and real buried treasure, bike riding and a chase through the forest, the law and the logic of a well-versed schoolmaster, the story falls into place, delighting the reader throughout.

Although clearly written for children, No Boats on Bannermere is excellent reading for anyone who likes boats, islands, small villages, cottages (there's a wonderful map of the cottage drawn by Bill), England of the 1940's, or adventure. If anyone sets hands on copies of the any of the rest of the series, please share!

A note from the reviewer: The Bannermere books can be difficult to find. Here are a couple of possibilities: WorldCat is the world's largest library catalog, and offers a searchable catalog of books in libraries worldwide (but mostly in the U.S. at this time). You may be able to arrange an inter-library loan with your local library if there's a copy not too far away. Girls Gone By is a U.K. specialty publisher that republished the Bannermere books about ten years ago. The "dealers" page on their website offers "A list of booksellers who may offer copies of Bannermere books reprinted by Girls Gone By Publishers and currently out of print".

Reviewed by Elizabeth Jolley, February, 2011

This article is ©2011 by Elizabeth Jolley, and posted on All Things Ransome with permission.

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