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
The Voyage of the Sea Wolf
By Eve Bunting
Sleeping Bear Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-58536-790-0, US $8.95 / CAN $9.95
Marooned by the crew of her father’s ship at the end of The Pirate Captain’s Daughter, Catherine and William are finally rescued by . . . pirates. While the Sea Wolf is beautiful and exactly the kind of ship Catherine’s always dreamed of, she doesn’t expect the captain to be a woman. There’s a ruthless streak to Captain Moriarity, who takes a shine to William and forbids him to have any contact with Catherine. Doing so will find her marooned in an even less hospitable place than Pox Island. Nor does the captain appreciate music, so Catherine must find another job among the pirates. She becomes Sebastian’s assistant, and the dwarf protects her as much as he’s able.
Captain Moriarity seeks a Spanish galleon laden with great wealth, and no one, neither the pirates who marooned Catherine nor the ominous premonitions aboard the Sea Wolf, will stop her. Catherine must walk a treacherous line that puts her very life in peril, while William considers sacrificing his life and dreams to save her.
One thing that sets the Sea Wolves apart from other pirate crews is best expressed by Sebastian:
No other cap’n would have a one o’ them. They be’s half blind, half crippled, one handless, one footless. One can’t talk, one can’t hear, and Gummer, he be’s older than the ocean. And who but Captain Moriarity would a’ taken me, me, a dwarf? (80)
While most pirate crews were an amalgamation of men and women from around the world, it’s refreshing to have an author imbue her story with characters with disabilities. Bunting’s knowledge of pirate lore and sailing is evident throughout the story, yet never intrudes. Even though the intended audience is pirate apprentices, especially girls, others will enjoy this captivating and realistic tale.
Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
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