Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Pirate Apprentices and Young AdultsPlunder Blackbeard
On his sixteenth birthday, Charlie has his life turned upside down. He lives in Bristol, England, while learning to be a tanner. It’s a good trade, but backbreaking and smelly work, and the future doesn’t promise to be anything but the same. The one saving grace, as far as he can see, is that he’s street smart and has learned some fighting techniques from the tanner. In spite of his drunken father, he and his mother survive one day at a time. On this night, Charlie is old enough to defend himself and protect his mother from his father’s abusiveness, which earns him his father’s ire. It also results in some startling revelations.
The man he thought was his father is actually his stepfather. Although his mother has longed to tell Charlie the truth, a sacred promise forbade her from doing so until he turns sixteen. His true name is Charlie Drake and his real father left him a sea chest filled with a dagger, an amulet, coins from around the world, clothing, a journal, and a triple-locked box requiring special keys to unlock it. Two questions remain unanswered. Who is Jeffrey Drake and where is he now? To find the answers, his mother sends him to a seedy pub occupied by two brutes who demand proof that Charlie is who he says he is. They deliver two further pieces of information – the name of a ship and a key – but they will reveal nothing more.
On his way home, Charlie overhears his stepfather plotting with another man to kill him and his mother. Even though he promised he wouldn’t harm his stepfather, a fight ensues and when it ends, Charlie fears he’s slain the man. The only option left is to run, and so he heads for the ship which sails on the tide. First, he has to get the captain and his quartermaster to sign him on as a member of a crew. After all, he doesn’t know a thing about ships or sailing. He does find a way, but in the process earns himself several enemies. It will require quick thinking, ingenuity, and determination for Charlie to survive this privateering voyage to the Caribbean. Little does he realize this journey is but the first step in learning about his father.
Plunder is non-stop, heart-thumping action from first page to last. The characters are vividly drawn and uniquely unforgettable. The violent world of pirates and privateers is realistically portrayed, while also showing that oftentimes brains over brawn win the day. Some subject matter in this coming-of-age tale may be unsuitable for the intended young readers aged eight to twelve, although older teens and even adults will savor the thrills of combat, plunder, and rowdy adventure that dominate the pages of this book.
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy VallarPeering through his spyglass, Blackbeard eyes HMS Scarborough, a frigate in His Majesty’s Royal Navy. Most pirates would sail clear, but not Blackbeard and his men. Word of this battle spreads, making Blackbeard a legend, and he uses that notoriety to his advantage. But how did Edward Teach become a pirate, and what happens to him after this battle? Croce’s tale answers these questions.
Although a picture book, Blackbeard is aimed at older children – those who can read on their own. Croce makes a few suppositions, but he avoids the myths and unsubstantiated stories about Teach to introduce young readers to this infamous pirate. He highlights key episodes in Blackbeard’s escapades: the blockade of Charleston, his association with Stede Bonnet, the sinking of Queen Anne’s Revenge, and his fateful encounter with Lieutenant Maynard. Croce doesn’t romanticize the pirate, but this is not a tale of blood.
Elwell’s artwork cements the tale, bringing the pirates and events to life. Some illustrations appear in full color, while others are sketches reminiscent of sepia photographs. They realistically depict pirate life and allow the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks.
Blackbeard is a worthy treasure to add to any young pirate’s collection. It is an excellent introduction to this notorious pirate, especially since it focuses on the truth rather than the fiction. Croce’s knowledge of pirate lore shines through and readers will not be disappointed.
Other Reviews of Books by Pat Croce
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