Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Pirate Apprentices and Young Adults
The instant you open this book you realize this is not your typical pirate adventure, not when it involves Boxtrolls, White English Cheeses, Shopping Birds, and Trotting Badgers. Nor are the pirates, both rats and humans, involved in typical pirate tasks. No, they run the Ratbridge Nautical Laundry, and the moment they hoist the Countess Grogforth’s unmentionables high enough for all to see, they find themselves in a lot of hot water. When a lawsuit is filed, Arthur and Grandfather, the pirates’ friends, enlist the help of Mr. Willbury, but the rigged trial means innocence matters little. The judge finds the pirates guilty, and the only way to make this problem disappear is to come up with 10,000 groats within six months. If they don’t, they’ll be imprisoned for a very long time.
While Willbury is at court, Grandfather falls ill. He and Arthur go to the new Ratbridge Spa and Alternative Therapy Center, which offers free medical care. Their special medicine, Black Jollop, miraculously cures Grandfather, who feels and acts younger than he has in a very long time.
As usual, though, nothing in life is actually free. When the spa closes because the doctor has run out of Black Jollop, he visits Arthur, Mr. Willbury, and the pirates. If they will take him to a secret island to get more, he will pay them 10,000 groats. There’s one catch – the doctor has the right to decide who the captain will be. Desperately in need of the money, the pirates agree. Just one problem – how do they get their ship unstuck? Not to worry; Marjorie (the ship’s engineer) has a plan. Mr. Willbury agrees to accompany the pirates and the doctor, but he advises Grandfather not to allow Arthur to come. It doesn’t matter that Arthur has saved the pirates before and is a handy person to have around in case of trouble. Although Grandfather initially agrees, he changes his mind. When Arthur reaches the dock, though, the pirate ship is gone. With Fish the Boxtroll along for company, Arthur appropriates (in true pirate fashion) the pirates’ submarine and sails to where the pirates plan to stop for supplies. Once there, the pair stow away in an apple barrel aboard the pirate ship, determined not to come out until the ship is so far from land that it can’t turn around.
But unexpected surprises await the pirates, not least of which is their archenemy Archibald Snatcher, the dastardly villain whom they’ve foiled in the past. And this time around there doesn’t seem to be a way out . . . or is there? After all, Arthur and Fish are still in hiding.
Although this book is written for pirate apprentices, adults will also enjoy this rousing and inventive tale where the pirates are the good guys. Aside from the narrative, there are occasional headlines and stories from The Ratbridge Gazette that keep the reader informed about what is happening back in the village. And the news is not good – Cheesy Crims are hunting and eating the White English Cheeses to extinction. While this subplot may seem farfetched with nothing to do with the pirates and their predicament, it is a central part of the story. Eventually, the author succinctly ties all the loose threads together and by the time you reach the end of this riotous pirate yarn, you’ll be cheering for the pirates and Arthur.
Pen-and-ink illustrations populate the pages and are a brilliant addition to the story. From the first chapter (which deals with dirty laundry) to the last (which reunites all the friends), the unique characters come alive in a way that makes them far more memorable than simple words could do. The book also includes Johnson’s Taxonomy of Trolls and Creatures, a cutaway view of the Ratbridge Nautical Laundry, and The History of the Ratbridge Nautical Laundry. Oh, and did I mention there’s also a Godzilla-like monster?
By the time you finish this book, you’ll be a fan and want to read the first Ratbridge adventure, Here Be Monsters, which is slated for release as an animated film (titled The Boxtrolls) in October 2014.
Read an excerpt
Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar
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