Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Pirate Apprentices and Young Adults
Originally constructed for a member of parliament involved in the slave trade, the Whydah was bound for England when Samuel Bellamy and his fellow pirates attacked her in February 1717. In 1984 Barry Clifford and his team of divers discovered what remained of her off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Born in 1689, Englishman Samuel Bellamy found himself unemployed after his stint in the Royal Navy during the War of the Spanish Succession. He eventually journeyed to New England, where he hoped to seek his fortune. He met Paulsgrave Williams, son of an influential Rhode Island family, and the two decided to try their hand at diving on the Spanish treasure fleet that had sunk off the Florida coast in 1715. The fortune both sought failed to materialize, so they went on the account in hopes of finding adventure and wealth. Along the way they encountered other infamous pirates, such as Benjamin Hornigold, Olivier Levasseur, and Edward Teach. Bellamy also came to captain his own pirate ship, which led him to acquire new crew members. Among these were John King (the youngest known pirate), John Julian (a Moskito Indian), and Tom Davis (a carpenter forced to join). They captured many vessels, but the Whydah finally delivered what Bellamy desired most – an ideal pirate ship loaded with treasure. But tragedy struck when she and all but two of her crew sank during a violent storm.
In the aftermath of the wreck, many sought the treasure, but locating the Whydah proved elusive. Centuries passed before she finally gave up her secrets. This volume, written for middle-grade readers, recounts the story of this ship, the pirates who attacked her, and the hunt to locate the first verified pirate shipwreck. Sandler also includes the legends surrounding Bellamy; what the recovered artifacts have taught us about piracy during the early eighteenth century; and the establishment of a museum to showcase these artifacts.
This fascinating tale is recounted in twelve chapters, each of which includes a feature that further illuminates some facet pertaining to the information in the chapter. Among these historical sidepieces are discussions on the slave trade, pirate life and tactics, the history of diving, and preserving artifacts. To further enhance the reading experience, Sandler incorporates quotations from period documents or people involved in the hunt and discovery of the shipwreck, black-and-white illustrations, and maps.
The inclusion of an index makes this history of the Whydah more accessible than Clifford’s own books that often lack this important feature. Sandler clearly mentions any alterations he makes, such as rewording passages from Captain Johnson’s A General History of Pyrates into modern-day language for easier reading, and points out when the historical record remains silent about a particular aspect of the story, such as the legend of Maria Hallett. The inclusion of lesser-known facts, such as two of the divers who helped in the search, will surprise many. The chronological unfolding of events and the smooth flow of the narrative make this an inviting tale that snares the reader’s attention. This might be a book aimed at young pirate readers (ages ten and up), but adults will find it an equally intriguing adventure.
Book Review Copyright ©2017 Cindy Vallar
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