Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Pirate Apprentices and Young Adults
By Douglas Rees
Illustrated by Tony Auth
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008
ISBN 978-1-4169-4762-2, US $15.99 / CAN $18.99
When Mom serves Bad News Pie, Wilson hopes she won’t notice his broken glasses. Again –wearing glasses and being small invites trouble when you’re a fourth grader. No sooner does Mom reveal her news, but there’s a knock at the door. Her long-lost brother, Uncle Pirate, and his talking penguin, Captain Jack, arrive. And everything changes, beginning with Captain Jack’s tossing food out of the refrigerator so he can sleep in a cold place.
Having been marooned by his crew for failing to make them rich, Uncle Pirate must find work, but the first few jobs he tries don’t quite work out as planned. Captain Jack just wants to go to school and learn to read and write, but Wilson doesn’t think that’s a good idea. How can one learn when nobody heeds the teacher and the pledge to the flag goes, “We pledge allegiance to the United Snakes of America and to all that other stuff we don’t understand. Amen.” Not to mention the fact that Carla Canova, “the meanest fourth grader in the last hundred years,” has a date to beat up Wilson for stealing her Pixi Trix. (He didn’t, but that doesn’t matter.)
When Uncle Pirate learns about what’s happening at school, he and Captain Jack accompany Wilson to school. Ms. Twissel, Wilson’s teacher, takes one look at Uncle Pirate and quits, so Uncle Pirate takes command. And he won’t tolerate all the mollymockery that’s been going on!
Uncle Pirate is a diamond in the rough. Without the dust jacket, it’s simply another book. One that would probably sit on the shelf and never be read. And though eye-catching and intriguing – after all, how many penguins have you seen reading a book or schools flying the Jolly Roger – the dust jacket might not quite stir you to look inside. That would be a major mistake! Sufficient enough to get a pirate marooned! This chapter book will make you wish you had a one-legged pirate uncle for a teacher. Rees subtly weaves pirate facts and speech into the storyline without being intrusive. His keen understanding of being a kid and coping with bullies makes the story true to life, while he laces the bad stuff with humor so as not to threaten. Auth’s cartoon-like illustrations cleverly bring the story and characters to life. The black-and-white renderings make you focus on the events that unfold, whereas color would intrude on the story, and you’ll find at least one favorite that will make you smile and cheer. Uncle Pirate is one of those stories you want to read over and over again.
Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar
Uncle Pirate to the Rescue
By Douglas Rees
Illustrated by Tony Auth
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4169-7505-2, US $4.99 / CAN $7.99
Wilson and Uncle Pirate return once again in a new adventure. While things have settled down at Jolly Roger Elementary School, the same isn’t true for Wilson’s uncle. A glass bottle arrives with $14.35 in postage due, and after reading:
To Captin Desprit Evel Wiked Bob
We Pays in Gold
Wilson knows the rest of the letter can only mean bad news. It turns out Uncle Pirate’s old crew, who marooned him in Antarctica and stole his ship, have gotten themselves into “desprit strates” and only he can rescue them. In spite of how the pirates turned on him, Uncle Pirate cannot desert them in their time of need and sets off to find them.
The loss of Uncle Pirate devastates everyone at Jolly Roger. When his post cards suddenly stop arriving, Commodore Purvis, Ms. Quern (the school secretary and Uncle Pirate’s sweetheart), Captain Jack (his penguin), Wilson, and some of Wilson’s friends decide they must find Uncle Pirate. Purvis would rather do this on his own and reap all the glory, but it’s tough to fly a blimp around the world by himself. When they finally locate Uncle Pirate and the others, however, rescuing them turns out to be far more difficult than expected.
This chapter book is a fast-paced adventure for children who have graduated from picture books, but aren’t ready for long novels. The black-and-white illustrations add to the humor and excitement and incorporate lots of piratical elements. Fans of the first Uncle Pirate adventure will enjoy this sequel. This title is also available in e-book format.
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