|Cover artist||Arthur Ransome|
|Series||Swallows and Amazons|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
|ISBN||978-0-87923-787-5 (David R. Godine, Publisher: 1990, paperback)|
|Preceded by||Winter Holiday|
|Followed by||Pigeon Post|
Coot Club is the fifth book of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series of children's books, published in 1934. The book sees Dick and Dorothea Callum visiting the Norfolk Broads during the Easter holidays, eager to learn to sail and thus impress the Swallows and Amazons when they return to the Lake District later that year. Along with a cast of new characters, Dick and Dorothea explore the North and South Broads and become 'able seamen'.
The Callum children spend their Easter holidays on The Broads with a family friend, Mrs Barrable, who is staying on a small yacht called the Teasel, moored near the village of Horning. There they encounter the Coot Club, a gang of local children comprising Tom Dudgeon, twin girls 'Port' and 'Starboard' (Nell and Bess Farland), and three younger boys -- Joe, Bill and Pete (the "Death and Glories"). The Coot Club was formed to protect local birds and their nests from egg collectors and other disturbances. Protecting wild birds was a relatively new concept at the time.
A noisy and inconsiderate party of city-dwellers (dubbed the 'Hullabaloos' by the children) hire the motor cruiser Margoletta and threaten an important nesting site of a coot with a white feather (one of many monitored by the Coots) by mooring in front of it, and refuse to move when politely requested to do so. Despite warnings "not to mix with foreigners", Tom stealthily casts off the Margoletta's moorings to save the nest and then hides behind the Teasel. He hides for fear of disgracing his father, who is the local doctor. Casting off boats is considered unthinkable on The Broads, where the local economy is so dependent on boating. Mrs Barrable does not give Tom away to the Hullabaloos and instead asks him to teach the Callums to sail.
Tom, Port, and Starboard join the crew of the Teasel, and together with Mrs Barrable and her pug William, the children teach Dick and Dorothea the basics of sailing up and down the Broads. The women of the party sleep in Teasel and Tom and Dick share Tom's small sailing boat Titmouse. Dick shares the Coot Club's keen interest in local bird life, and Dorothea uses the voyage as fodder for her new story, "Outlaw Of The Broads", based on the Hullabaloos' vow to catch Tom. They chase the crew of the Teasel all over the Broads. Through a piece of imprudence on the part of Mrs Barrable, Teasel and Titmouse are caught on a falling tide on Breydon Water and go aground, just too far apart to be able to pass things between them. William the pug is encouraged to make a heroic journey across the mud towing a thread, by which a rope is hauled across to share food, without which some of the party would have had to go unfed for 12 hours.
They are still stranded on the mud when the Margoletta arrives. There is no escape, but the Hullabaloos, in their joy at running their quarry to earth, manage to crash the Margoletta into a wooden marker post, holing her hull and putting the crew in danger of drowning. At that moment the Death and Glories appear, having rowed all the way from Horning to warn Tom of the Hullabaloos' approach. They conduct a dramatic rescue, and are rewarded by the owners of the Margoletta with a salvage award which enables them to refurbish their vessel. The Hullabaloos depart without thanking their rescuers, and Tom can return home in the knowledge that the reputation of the doctor's family is intact. It turns out that the Hullabaloos were alerted to Tom's whereabouts by George Owdon, a Horning youth who makes money by selling birds' eggs to collectors, and who therefore has no love for the Coot Club. This rivalry is the subject of the sequel, The Big Six.
In the text, the twins are on board the fictional Thames barge, Welcome of Rochester. Ransome researched the book during the summer of 1933 and encountered SB Pudge of Rochester. He wrote to the owners, LRTC ( London & Rochester Trading Company) for details of the cargoes Pudge carried, the routes the Pudge sailed, and which bridges she could pass under. The book describes the cabin and stateroom, and the newly fitted petrol auxiliary engine. Pudge was later fitted with the more powerful Kelvin K3 66HP engine that is present today. Ransome's description has been useful in the restoration of the Pudge.
Another boat referred to in the text is the Norfolk wherry Sir Garnett which gives the twins a lift when they need to catch up with Tom.