Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Pirate Apprentices and Young Adults
By Richard Platt
Pelican, 2004, ISBN 1-58980-227-6, $16.95
Who were the pirates? What types of ships and weapons did they use and what did they steal? Where did they sail? When did they roam the seas? How did pirates live and how were they punished? Discovering Pirates answers these and many other questions about the Buccaneers and the Golden Age of Piracy. There are also special highlights on a variety of subjects, including Sir Francis Drake, the Jolly Roger, the real Robinson Crusoe, and Blackbeard’s final stand. This book debunks pirate myths and realistically depicts a pirate’s life at sea.
Discovering Pirates is actually two books in one. The historical aspects of piracy appear within tattered scrolls on the top two-thirds of each page. A separate fictional pirate at the bottom of the page illustrates the topic in a down-to-earth manner. The wonderfully detailed illustrations will captivate young readers, for each pirate has individual traits and their renderings make them intriguing yet scary rather than glorifying or romanticizing pirates. Entertaining and instructional, this book will delight young and old alike.
Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar
By Richard Platt
DK Publishing, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7566-3005-8, US $15.99; CAD $19.99
Part of the Eyewitness series, Pirate introduces youngsters to pirates from ancient times through 1850. It also covers pirates in the arts and highlights various aspects of their lives, such as weaponry, Jolly Rogers, treasure, life at sea, slavery, food, clothing, and punishment. The current edition includes several features not available with earlier ones for the same price: Did you know? (fascinating facts), Questions and Answers, Who’s Who, Places to visit, Unsolved pirate mysteries, a wall chart highlighting various elements and pictures from the book, and a graphic CD. There is also a glossary and index.
The most compelling aspect of the Eyewitness series is the illustrations. Each double-page spread is filled with drawings, ship models, and photographs of artifacts pertaining to the topic. Among those in this book are a Viking broadsword, Incan gold, navigational instruments, and a buccaneer’s sword and sheath. This alone makes the series a treasure!
While mention is made of Baltimore’s privateers during the Revolutionary War, none is made of the schooners built there during the War of 1812 where some of the most famous of that war’s privateers came from. The author refers to Jean Laffite as being Haitian born, but there is no evidence to support this. His birthplace remains a mystery, and he, himself, declared he was from France. One disappointment was that modern pirates rate only a mention in the Q&A section.
The CD contains 100 pictures that appear to be in the public domain, as no instructions on their use are provided. This may disappoint some users, for the best graphics from the book are not on the CD. The Help File provides information on how to navigate through the files. One should note, though, that the up arrow (allows the user to go up one level in the directory) only works on the thumbnail pages for each section. If you’re examining individual pictures, you must click the back arrow until you return to the thumbnail page to access another level in the directory. Places on the map graphics are not labeled, but corresponding page numbers in the book allow users to identify what’s what. The only way to exit the program is to close the window.
Ever since this book, and others in the series, first appeared in the 1990s, I have recommended it as the best place to start if you want to learn about pirates. I still believe that. Nowhere else can readers view such a wide assortment of artifacts from various time periods in one book. The CD is a good bonus and the graphics are grouped into files that correspond with the pages in the book. Together these make Pirate an essential addition to any pirate library.
Review copyrighted © 2007 Cindy Vallar
By Richard Platt
Illustrated by Steve Stone
Kingfisher, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7534-6431-1, US $19.99 / CAN $23.99
This second book in the “Versus” series pits pirate against pirate to determine which sea rover of the past was the ultimate pirate. These villains represent the fiercest and bloodiest of the rogues: sea person, Cilician, Viking, Baltic pirate, Barbary corsair, privateer, buccaneer, Roundsman, freebooter, and Yang-Fei.
The book begins with a menu showing which pirate is pitted against another, as well as the final battle between the five victors to determine the “best” of the “best.” Each pirate is then placed on a historical time line and briefly introduced before the actual duels commence. A double-page spread highlights the two fighters who are up; when opened each side showcases the individual combatants. Information about each contestant, his weapons of choice, how he maintains his stamina, and how he moves when fighting is presented in a fashion similar to what would appear on the screen of a computer game. After the battle, first the victor then the vanquished pirate is showcased over two pages that provide historical tidbits pertaining to each. After the match-off between the five victors for the title of fiercest pirate, options are provided for rematches followed by a unique glossary of terms related to each pirate, as well as some of the weaponry. A short index concludes the book.
What makes this book different from other books on pirates is its presentation, which is geared toward gamers, especially young pirates and pirates in training. While the information provided is minimal from a researcher’s perspective, the entries capture succinctly and concisely each contestant’s strengths and weaknesses, weaponry, and tactics better than more in-depth books sometimes do. One graphic I came across was out of place – Blackbeard was not a Roundsman, but a freebooter (using the classification periods of the book). The artwork is superb, enhancing the text and making readers wish this were a real computer gaming program.
Versus: Pirates is a treasure trove of historical information that young pirates and pirate apprentices will hoard. From the distinctive cover to the final page, this book will fascinate and make them ponder whether the author’s choice of winner really is the ultimate pirate. Perhaps they might discover that a different one should have won. The illustrations make this book and provide readers with real-life images of these villains, some of which have no realistic images of them in print.
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar
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