Book: Swiftwater

Author: Paul Annixter

Publisher: Scholastic, republished 1976

ISBN-13: 978-0809090808

ISBN-10: 0809090805

Language level: 3

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level:  Young adult

Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Annixter, Paul.  Swiftwater (published in 1950 by A. A. Wyn Inc., New York City, NY).  It is the early 1900s, and fifteen year old Jude Calloway, known as Bucky, lives with his father Cam, mother Lide, nine year old sister Viney, dog Sounder, tame crow Old Scissorbill, and pet bear cub Keg, in a cabin in the woods near the backwoods settlement of Swiftwater, ME.  Cam makes a living trapping and working as a guide, and Bucky helps with the trapping.  Bucky is sweet on their neighbor, Bridie Mellott, but is shy around her, and she starts taking up with Whit Turner.  Cam dreams of owning land to raise timber for sale, whereas Bucky’s ambition is to establish a wildlife refuge for migrating geese and ducks.  However, most of the townspeople oppose Bucky’s idea because they want hunters to come into the area.  Are Cam and Bucky able to fulfill their desires?  What can they do to accomplish their aims?  And will Bucky ever be able to establish a relationship with Bridie?

This is basically an enjoyable, “folksy” type of book, told in a rather leisurely fashion.  A few instances of smoking tobacco (even Bucky takes up smoking cigarettes at one point) and drinking alcohol occur, and in addition to some common euphemisms (gosh, doggone, darn), the name of Jesus and the word Lordy are used once each as exclamations, and the “h” word appears a couple of times.  However, while there is no specific mention of the Calloways attending church, regular Bible reading is a part of their home life, and Bucky is said to pray on several occasions.  They obviously believe in God and even talk about him frequently.  In addition, the picture is drawn of a family whose members, despite their faults and weaknesses, have a good relationship among themselves and truly love one another, especially in times of hardship and tragedy.

The 1965 Walt Disney movie “Those Calloways,” starring Brian Keith, Vera Miles, Brandon DeWilde, and a very young Linda Evans, is loosely adapted from the story.   Several years ago, we watched the film, which was a little above the typical Disney flick of the time because it was more of a drama.  A lot of the movie follows the book with only minor differences, that is, until the end when it takes a significant, Disney-influenced departure from the novel.  Swiftwater is a good, old-fashioned, coming of age story that will especially appeal to outdoors people of the camping/hiking/hunting sort.  The only real objection I read was from someone who wrote, “Strange, though, how a book can celebrate the conservation of wildlife and treat animal trapping with indifference at the same time.”  What the animal rights people don’t seem to understand is that reasonable people can use what God has placed on earth for our benefit, yet still seek to protect and preserve it from wasteful exploitation for future generations.  I think that Cam and Bucky Calloway realized that.

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