Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Pirate Apprentices and Young Adults
The Pirate Captain’s Daughter
While her father’s at sea, fifteen-year-old Catherine cares for her mother. Her parents believe Catherine knows only that her father is a captain in the Royal Navy, but she’s overheard snippets of conversation between him and Mr. Trimble, his quartermaster. Her father is really a pirate, captain of the Reprisal, and he’s hidden valuable treasure somewhere in the house – a prize someone else wants. Catherine interrupts the intruder before he acquires it, but before she can send word to her father, her mother dies.
After the burial, Catherine convinces her father that she wishes to become a pirate and join him aboard his ship. He reluctantly agrees, but she must disguise herself as his son, a twelve-year-old lad named Charlie. He warns her both of them will be in grave danger should any of the pirates discover her true identity. Since she has no nautical training, she joins the crew as a musician, playing the flute in accompaniment to Hopper’s accordion and Red’s fiddle. Reality quickly shatters her romantic dream of being a pirate. She learns one of the crew is the intruder, and others aboard prefer being her enemy rather than friend. She also discovers her father isn’t quite the man she thought he was.
While this young adult novel portrays pirates in a realistic and gritty fashion, it also contains inaccuracies that mar an otherwise captivating adventure. Although no time period is given, there are references to tricorn hats and the feel of the story is early seventeenth century. This makes the incorporation of the song “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest,” which is a fictional shanty created more than a century later by Robert Louis Stevenson, incongruous. Several historical errors also find their way into the story. After dancing the hempen jig, pirates didn’t hang in metal cages in a town square. These would have been found near or in the water where ships passed. The first sea battle is exciting, but not correct in the sequencing of events. Pirates didn’t grapple their ship to another and then fire their guns because at that point the vessels are too close together. The first time the pirates yell, brandish their weapons, and make other noise to intimidate their prey, Bunting calls this “wavering,” yet later she uses the correct term “vaporing.”
In spite of these missteps, she deftly weaves her research into the story, subtly spinning a web that combines fact and myth to create an exciting tale. One example of this is that pirates did squabble over gems and each man insisted on having the same size, so they used a hammer to smash big jewels into smaller pieces for a more equitable distribution. Another example is the use of musicians, who had to play on demand. Bunting does an excellent job of portraying this. Her characters are well-drawn and multidimensional, and there are layers to the danger that threatens Catherine. Girls will enjoy this pirate story and there is an undertone of romance and maturing for Catherine. The inclusion of an author interview and discussion questions for reading groups or book clubs are added features.
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar
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