Thursday, August 11, 2016

Pirates Ahoy! (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Before school begins, swap out your last few days of vacation for time in your imagination. These pirate tales can take you along on adventures, and make you laugh or think. Whether it’s a day at the beach or on board, there’s still time for summertime magic. If your fantasy is to sail into the sunset, feast your fancy on these books of wonder.

Maggie and the Pirate by Ezra Jack Keats
            In this haunting story, Maggie lives with her parents “in an old bus they made into a home.” They use boats or rafts to get to “town,” an unusual collection of buildings on stilts. A boy stranger, who calls himself a pirate and has built an odd tree house in the swamp, steals Maggie’s beloved cricket in his cage. She and her friends go on a hunt to find Nikki. Sadly, during the struggle to retrieve him, the cricket drowns.
            Award winner Keats is famous for developing a lovely illustration style that mixes collage, silhouette and watercolor. In addition to the beautiful paintings, the simple text and the language of loss and reconciliation enhance the depth of this book. The concluding friendships formed from this profound tale of loss leave a lingering effect of sweetness without overpowering readers or listeners.

Scholastic, Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 2

Roger the Jolly Pirate by Brett Helquist
            Roger is a lousy pirate. The other buccaneers on his ship give him the unkind nickname of Jolly Roger. “When there is serious pirating” to do, they send him below deck.
            This happens again when their only notable opponent, the “Admiral” with his band, attacks. Roger, who wants to win his shipmates approval, decides to bake a cake in a cannon he thinks is a pot. The resulting explosion blows Roger on deck in a cloud of flour, smoke, and gunpowder soot, shrieking like a banshee. The Admiral’s crew doesn’t stay long enough to realize he’s neither skeleton nor ghost.
            This is a wacky story with double-page spreads of wild and crazy battle scenes, and contrasting close-up views of faces and ships on the high seas. Author/illustrator Helquist grabs attention with his ability to craft high-motion images. A chicken companion and his grin with a gap distinguish Roger from the scowls of the other pirates.
In appreciation, Roger’s shipmates make a flag in his honor, now known as the “Jolly Roger.” Music and words for “The Ballad of the Jolly Roger” are included at the end.

HarperCollins, $6.99 (paperback) 
Interest Level: Grades 1-3

Captain Jack and the Pirates by Peter Bently
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
            Rollicking rhythm and rhyme attracts listeners’ interest. The “brave mariners three” use their imaginations to build a pirate ship from sand at the beach. Buckets for cannons, shirts for the mainsails, an inflatable ring and they are off “through oceans unknown!”
            An enemy pirate ship is up ahead, but a storm on the sea brings down the sail, collapses the ship and sends a “man overboard!” They explore the “island” where the “enemy pirates” are shipwrecked too. The “treasure” they discover is a bountiful table of “booty.”  Sandwiches, cupcakes and soda pop draw them to the heavily laden table.
A beguiling mix of watercolor paintings is intermingled with smaller pencil drawings. Much beloved illustrator Oxenbury uses her award-winning talents to show the sunlit day changing to a “tropical gale.” And the contrast between the huge pirate ship with its eye patch pirates and the small sand boat with its tiny buccaneers could not be more imposing.
When a voice says, “Caught you!” The “buccaneers” give in without a struggle, getting dried off by caring parents with clean clothes. The final double page spread is a view of three happy boys/pirates companionably licking ice cream cones. 

Dial, $17.99 
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Kindergarten

More Pirate Tales:

The Pirate Queen by Emily Arnold McCully
Putnam, Interest Level: Grade 2-3

Lilly and the Pirates by Phyllis Root
Illustrations by Rob Shepperson
Boyds Mills Press, $8.95 (paperback) 
$16.95 (hardcover) Interest Level: Grade 3

Pirates Don’t Change Diapers by Melinda Long
Illustrated by David Shannon
Harcourt, $16.99 
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 3

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