Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Pirate Apprentices and Young AdultsPirates Pirates Most Wanted
Pirates!The very word conjures up vivid images in a person’s mind. Many books are published for the young and the old, but what about those youngsters who fall in between? Pirates is the perfect answer. Within the pages of this book (designated for ages 6-12, but a treasure for any age), readers discover the truths about pirates with illustrations and hands-on booty to enrich the experience and stimulate the imagination.
The book begins with a brief overview of the history of piracy from ancient times to present day. Subsequent pages explore the dress code of pirates, their ships and flags, life at sea, famous pirates (Blackbeard, Henry Morgan, Grace O’Malley), letters of marque and pirate articles, attacks at sea and on land, treasure, life on shore, capture and trial, punishment, and pirates in fiction. Aside from the illustrations and maps, the pages are filled with quotations by and related to pirates, and on most double-page spreads the reader will find envelopes with seals resembling sealing wax. A lift of the flap reveals booty within that the reader can hold in his hand.
Constructed of thick, poster-like paper, the pages resemble parchment. Several flaps fold out to reveal additional information, such as what various Jolly Rogers looked like or the various ships pirates sailed. One color illustration shows the exterior and interior of the Queen Anne’s Revenge. The last three pages contain a timeline of significant dates in piratical and privateering history and a glossary of nautical terms. What first captures the eye, though, is the cover of this oversize book. Mirroring the black flag, the front contains a skull and crossbones with an eye patch, gold tooth, and ruby eye. The back has an invitation with burnt edges warning readers they dare to “enter the wicked world of pirates….”Pirates reminds me of the Eyewitness book Pirate by Richard Platt, but for older children. It stimulates the eyes and is an excellent way to allow them to explore piracy – tantalizing and teasing them to strike out on their own adventures to learn more. This is a worthy addition to any swashbuckling pirate collection. No matter how many times you read it, you discover some tiny treasure that escaped your notice. The price is a steal, for it is as great a find as that which Sir Francis Drake uncovered when he captured the treasure galleon, Cacafuego. Pirates will become a much-loved possession, or as Mark Twain wrote in Life on the Mississippi: “Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.” John Matthews has written a book that allows us to be just that without fear of losing a limb like Long John Silver or dancing the hempen jig as many a pirate did in days of yore.
Book Review Copyright ©2006 Cindy Vallar
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Pirates Most Wanted: Thirteen of the Most Bloodthirsty Pirates Ever to Sail the High Seas
by John Matthews
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2007, US $16.99, CAN $19.99
This book allows readers to meet famous pirates up close. These villains are from the Golden Age of Piracy (17th and 18th centuries) and center on western men and women, who primarily hunted in the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. Within the covers of this oversized children’s book are Henry Morgan, William Dampier, Jean Bart, William Kidd, Thomas Tew, Henry Avery, Charlotte de Berry, Blackbeard, Sam Bellamy, Black Bart, and Edward Low. Each pirate receives a double-page spread with a brief account of his or her piratical life. Enhancements to this information include newspaper clippings, wanted posters, sample artifacts, illustrations, and pages from Captain Johnson’s famous book or trial transcripts. The center of the book presents a fold-out spread that highlights a captain’s cabin. Aside from the dark painting of the interior of these quarters, items the captain used to carry out his duty are highlighted and illustrated with pictures of artifacts. The last double-page spread covers the three principal haunts of pirates during this time: Port Royal, Tortuga, and Madagascar. At the back of the book a skeletal hand grasps a special treat, The Little Book of Pirates Records.
For those who read Matthews’ first pirate book, there may be some letdown, for this book lacks the hands-on booty that graced the pages of Pirates. This time around the eyewitness account of one of Morgan’s raids and the pirate record book are the only objects that provide that hands-on experience. The information and graphical presentation, though, are a great introduction to some familiar and not-so-familiar pirates. Some readers might notice the list above doesn’t include thirteen names, and that’s because the publisher included Anne Bonny and Mary Read in the count, even though they only receive brief mention on the spread about de Berry. The real treasure of this book is the “Captain’s Cabin.” This picture shows readers exactly what the pirate leader’s quarters were like without much embellishment, and since there aren’t many illustrations that examine the interior of a ship’s cabins, this becomes a special gem. Pirates Most Wanted’s value also lies in who’s represented here, for few children’s books include Dampier, Bart, de Berry, or Low.
Q&A with John Matthews
A special note from a French reader: Jean Bart was a privateer, not a pirate.
Book Review © 2007 Cindy Vallar
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