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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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Books for Pirate Apprentices and Young Adults

Nick of Time                    The Time Pirate

Cover Art: Nick
        of Time
Nick of Time
by Ted Bell
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008, ISBN 978-0-312-38068-7, US $17.95, CAN $19.95

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Wooden ships and secret U-boats. Pirates and Nazis versus Nelson’s Royal Navy and two courageous youngsters. Missing children and a kidnapped dog. A time machine and a castle filled with secrets. Stir together with salty adventure and spicy intrigue, and serve with tea and biscuits. These are the ingredients that make Nick of Time a timeless adventure for young and old alike.

Nick McIver and his younger sister, Katie, live in the lighthouse on Greybeard Island, one of the Channel Islands. While “birdwatching” – keeping a wary eye out for German planes and submarines – in June 1939, they stumble across a sea chest floating in a cove. It looks brand new, but Nick believes it dates back to the time of Admiral Horatio Nelson, a man Nick admires. The chest is too heavy to lift, so the two children visit Gunner, the local barkeep. What they find at the tavern, though, is Captain Billy Blood, a most fiercesome pirate who wants the treasure within the chest. When Nick refuses to identify its location, Blood kidnaps Nick’s dog and threatens to kill him at six o’clock the next evening unless he gets what he wants.

While retrieving the sea chest, Nick, Katie, and Gunner happen upon a German U-boat with capabilities far beyond what the British government suspects. The trio believes only one person can help them – Lord Hawke, a recluse who lives in the daunting castle on the island. News of Blood’s reappearance enrages Hawke and Hobbes, his companion, for this nasty pirate kidnapped Hawke’s children many years ago. The appearance of the U-boat and an urgent plea for help from Nick’s ancestor convince Hawke and Hobbes to help the trio save their country, Nick’s dog, and the missing children. Hawke, Gunner, and Nick travel back to 1805 to help Captain McIver outfox Captain Blood and reach Admiral Nelson with vital information before it’s too late, while Hobbes and Katie head for England to tell Winston Churchill about the submarine only to find themselves reluctant guests of the Nazis.

Nick of Time is one of those stories you want to read under the covers with a flashlight after Mom tucks you in bed and turns off the light. The serpentine twists never slow the action, and the heroes must employ their wits, as well as their brawn, to overcome the villains. The frequent switches in points of view are a bit distracting, but don’t detract from the suspense and exploits of Nick and his sister. The author, who usually writes for adults, wrote this book for young adults and older children, but grown-ups will enjoy the tale as well.  Nick of Time is a great story for families to read together.

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Book Review Copyright ©2008 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: The Time Pirate
The Time Pirate
By Ted Bell
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010, ISBN 978-0-312-57810-7, US $17.99 / Can $19.99 
An intrepid twelve year old, Nick McIver dreams of matching wits with enemy pilots in aerial dogfights, just like his father did during the Great War. The discovery of his dad’s old Sopwith Camel provides him with such a chance. Gunner, the innkeeper and a former navy man, helps restore the biplane, which Nick presents to his father one Sunday after church.
 
In the days that follow, Nick learns to fly and none too soon. With England withdrawing her troops, someone must defend the Channel Islands against the Germans. That someone is Nick, and after the Nazis’ brutal invasion of Guernsey, he carries out a secret mission to disrupt the enemy airbase on that neighboring island. But while Nick’s away, another insidious enemy appears on Greybeard Island. Captain William Blood and Snake Eyes, bloodthirsty pirates who will do anything to get what they want, kidnap Nick’s little sister. They leave behind a note threatening bodily harm to Kate if Nick fails to deliver his time travel device to Blood at a certain place in time.
 
Blood takes Kate to Port Royal, Jamaica in 1781. While imprisoned in one of the taverns where the pirates gather, she overhears Blood’s plan to amass an armada of pirate ships that will strike the French navy en route to join the Americans’ fight for independence. If Admiral de Grasse doesn’t reach Yorktown in time, the British will defeat George Washington and his forces and the United States will never exist. When she informs Nick of this, he realizes that if Blood’s impending attack succeeds, the Americans will not come to Britain’s aid during World War II and Hitler might succeed in conquering their country. Will Nick succeed in extricating Kate and himself from Blood’s evil clutches? Will he betray the nation he loves to warn Washington? How will he convince this legendary man of Blood’s armada and will the Americans stop the pirartes in time?
 
The inclusion of the prologue, which serves only to provide a recap of the first tale in this series, detracts from the story and readers easily gain insights into the past from snippets within the main text. More problematic from a pirate historian’s perspective is basing the Brethren of Blood in Port Royal a century after it ceased to be a haven for pirates. Also, the brief mention of Edward England fails to ring true since that infamous rogue was long dead. The scene involving Blood’s defense of his father is a bit of unnecessary back story. While interesting, it lacks any tie-in to the narrative.
 
In spite of these minor flaws, this epic and riveting tale transports readers back to two pivotal moments in history. The web Ted Bell spins is rife with heroism, patriotism, derring-do, and danger.  Nick’s exploits in The Time Pirate will captivate young swashbucklers who dream of saving the world from dastardly villains.
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Book Review Copyright ©2010 Cindy Vallar


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