Most pirate attacks happened from 1500 to 1700, but pirates have been in the news recently. Most were men, but a few have been women. While books and movies create an exciting image of pirates, in reality they led terrible lives, filled with fighting, disease, capture, and death. Read about all sorts of pirates in this recent crop of books.

Contributor: Peg Glisson


Links to additional information and activities about Pirates follow these reviews.


Beauty Queens

Libba Bray

A plane of beauty queens. An island. A crash. A secret compound. A maniacal dictator. Pirates. And, a corporation that wants to rule the world. All of these are wacky components that combine to create Bray’s newest release, Beauty Queens. When their plane crashes on an apparently deserted island, the survivors of the Miss Teen Dream pageant are certain they will be rescued soon. Meanwhile, they are determined to stay pageant-ready. As time passes and there is no sign of rescue, the girls discover the very talents that won their pageant crowns will be their salvation. But not everything pageant-related has a place on the island. Soon, the girls begin shedding their beauty queen facades in favor of developing their savvy, independent styles. When rescue finally comes, it is not quite what they expected. Their newfound skills are put to the test when they realize their rescue might be more deadly than the crash. Reading Beauty Queens as a novel of girl empowerment would be telling only part of the story. The remainder is a zany adventure with serious messages about the media, politics, body image and consumerism. Just when you think Bray can’t add another element–she does, and caps them all off with some of the best one-liners in YA literature. Due to some sexual content and the sophisticated messages, librarians should purchase this for high school readers. Older teens will love to see the beauty queens blossom, and the final pages will take them on a journey that will leave them wondering: how much was real, and how much was reality TV? 2011, Scholastic, Ages 15 to 18., $18.99. Reviewer: Anita Beaman (VOYA).

ISBN: 9780439895972

Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime

Myra Wolfe

Illustrated by Maria Monescillo

Here is yet another perspective on the eternal battle between young children and their parents about the bedtime. Young Charlotte Jane is a feisty child who does things on her own schedule and likes “to get the juice out of her days.” Eventually she puts her bedtime off so late that she never gets there. In consequence all of her remarkable oomph disappears. Neither her parents nor she can find any trace of it. Eventually Charlotte Jane, who is pictured throughout as a pirate, realizes that it is best to sleep at night and experience her pirating adventures as dreams. The bright playful illustrations and lively but spare text keep this story moving–and might persuade a young person of similar character to agree to this as a bedtime story, followed by their own active dreams. 2011, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 3 to 6, $16.99. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780152061500

The Dagger Quick

Brian Eames

The hero of this swashbuckling tale is 12-year-old Christopher, known as Kitto, a feisty lad despite the handicap of a clubfoot. In Falmouth, England, in 1678, Kitto is learning from his father how to be a cooper, though he dreams of going to sea. Unexpectedly, Kitto’s wish comes true, when an uncle he has never heard of, William Quick, a pirate from Jamaica, shows up trailing trouble in his wake. William has stolen treasure from the famous privateer Henry Morgan and hidden it away. Now he wants to claim it and he needs his brother’s barrels to hold the booty. But Morgan, now the lieutenant governor of Jamaica, is a dangerous enemy, and when Kitto’s father is murdered and his stepmother and brother captured, Kitto ends up taking to the high seas with his pirate uncle. On board, he is befriended by young Van, who has a monkey–and a treacherous secret. Kitto is determined to rescue his little brother and his stepmother, and prove his bravery, but when Morgan’s ship attacks, luck may be needed along with courage if they are all to survive. This exciting adventure tale, with its satisfying details of life at sea and battle action, ends somewhat abruptly, and clearly a sequel is planned. Young readers entranced by pirate tales will enjoy following Kitto’s escapades, and the cover illustration, featuring Kitto brandishing a dagger with a monkey perched on his shoulder, will draw them in. A glossary of pirate terms is appended. 2011, Simon & Schuster, Ages 8 to 13, $15.99. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781442423114

Deadweather and Sunrise

Geoff Rodkey

Island life has been anything but idyllic for thirteen-year-old Eggbert: besides being subject to Deadweather’s terrible climate and its many drunken, and often abusive, pirates, the poor kid must also regularly dodge blows from his violent older brother, while garnering little to no sympathy from his emotionally distant father. So when a hot-air balloon accident seemingly kills his entire family and leaves Egg in the care of a wealthy merchant (and the merchant’s beautiful and fearless daughter), he’s not entirely distraught until he realizes that his new guardian is most likely responsible for the death of his family and is looking to bump Egg off as well. What follows is a high-seas adventure in the grandest tradition, featuring epic maritime battles, elusive hidden treasures, tender romance, and of course, pirates lots and lots of pirates. The fast-paced swashbuckling will surely satisfy fans of adventure, but it’s really Egg’s narration that makes this pirate story rise above its counterparts. Wittily observant and self-deprecating, Egg relays the series of absurd events that precede his escape from Deadweather with a fair amount of humor, while his decision to avenge the deaths of his family despite their mistreatment of him lends the tale a certain nobility, casting Egg as an accidental hero whose efforts to do the right thing are both admirable and somewhat haphazard. Colorful dialogue (including plenty of piratespeak) and a fully realized setting that will have readers wiping the sea spray from their brows round out this delightful nautical yarn that promises a sequel. 2012, Putnam, Ages 10 to 14, $16.99. Reviewer: Kate Quealy-Gainer (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books).

ISBN: 9780399257858

Fair Wind to Widdershins

Allan Frewin Jones

The second installment of this fantasy series for younger readers finds hedgehogs Esmerelda and Trundle, along with their friend Jack the Squirrel, in possession of the Crystal Crown. Faced with pursuing pirates and betrayal by Esmerelda’s own aunt, they search for the second of the six badger crowns which promise to unite the Sundered Lands. After making their way to an ancient university, the group secures the Iron Crown with the help of Trundle’s death-defying heroics. This fantasy series for younger readers is full of action and danger, and while the characterizations are not very deep, the trio of feisty princess Esmerelda, nervous Trundle, and lighthearted Jack will appeal to children. The fantasy world of the Sundered Lands is charming, with its population of small animals and windships that sail through the air. Inventive words dot the pages: places like a gymbelorium, musical instruments such as bladderpipes and hurdy-gurdies, and academic subjects including ponderology. Chalk’s black-and white illustrations interspersed throughout the text help bring the swashbuckling characters to life. Children will eagerly join the heroes on their next quest for the crown of fire. 2011, HarperCollins/ Greenwillow, Ages 7 to 10, $15.99. Reviewer: Blinn D. Sheffield (Catholic Library World).

ISBN: 9780062006264

The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate

Scott Nash

Blue Jay the Pirate and his crew of misfit birds sail the skies under the banner of the Jolly Robin, attacking fat merchant ships carrying seeds. When Junco, the navigator of the Grosbeak intentionally hatches the captain’s prized treasure egg, the ship gains one more crew member. Gabriel the gosling grows quickly and soon is as big as the ship itself. The crew does not quite know what to do with someone who eats twice as much as the rest of them. During a storm, the Grosbeak crashes in Teach the crow’s territory, Blue Jay’s evil cousin. They barely escape alive, but only after clipping their wings. With the help of local sparrows, Blue Jay and his crew must rescue their boat and save the sparrows from the twin threats of the crows next door and the Thrushian colonial authorities. Will this be Gabriel’s chance to show his usefulness and earn his keep, or will he fly south with the other geese? Renowned illustrator Scott Nash’s first novel features a tale of animals that succeeds in being both an original and a page-turner. The main characters are well developed, and the world in which they dwell is fantasy as its best. Nash vividly illustrates many of the characters and the action, which adds to the quality of the book. Fans of Brian Jacques’ Redwall series will love this story. 2012, Candlewick, Ages 11 to 15, $17.99. Reviewer: Etienne Vallee (VOYA).

ISBN: 9780763632649

Hurricane Dancers : The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck

Margarita Engle.

This fictional account of a Caribbean pirate shipwreck by Newbery Honor author Margarita Engle (The Surrender Tree) is told in spare verse with shifting first person viewpoints. We hear from Qebrado, dubbed “the broken one,” as well as from the pirate captain Bernardino de Talavera, from the ship’s captive Alonso de Ojeda who is in chains below deck, and in time from the young lovers Narido and Caucubu. When Qebrado becomes translator to the captain, the borders between the Taino and Spanish-speaking worlds begin to be bridged in ways that are both tragic and inevitable, given the historical intersections that precede this story. But when a hurricane wrecks the ship, the roles of captor and captive become reversed, and Qebrado rediscovers the land from which he was wrenched away so long ago. The ambitions of the conquistador Alonso and the pirate captain are thwarted and laid bare in this reversal. For Qebrado, the sole fictional character in a cast of fictionalized figures from an all too real history, hope lies eventually in a poignant reinvention. Images of trees and ships echo throughout–the heart of one speaking in the creak and roll of the other. Always, close at hand, is the sea. In this brief novel in verse, Engle charts the troubled waters of history with her customary combination of skill and heart. 2011, Henry Holt, Ages 10 up, $16.99. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780805092400

Jean Lafitte : The Pirate Who Saved America

by Susan Goldman Rubin

Illustrated by Troy Howell

Move over, Jack Sparrow. Jean Laffite grew up hearing stories of how his Jewish family was persecuted in Spain and forced to flee to Port-au-Prince in what is now Haiti. Carrying a letter of marque from France, Laffite (c. 1776–c. 1823) and his brothers sailed the high seas, capturing vessels flying the Spanish flag. Debut illustrator Himmelman’s copper-toned digital illustrations are warm and cinematic: whether Laffite is staring down his enemy on a ship engulfed in flames or looking fiercely contemplative as leader of the first “pirate convention,” he emerges as a handsome and magnetic hero. Readers will be captivated by this exciting story of a little known privateer. Endnotes offer more in-depth biographical information, including Laffite’s conflicted attitude toward slavery and the possibility that he faked his own death. 2011, Abrams Books for Young Readers, Ages 6–9, $18.99. Reviewer: Publishers Weekly.

ISBN: 9780810997332

Pirate Ship Adventure Crafts

Anna Llimaos Plomer

Pirates are always popular, and this book will give crafters ideas for both simple and challenging projects. On the more challenging side are clay figures of the head pirate, prisoner and parrot. Simpler projects include cardboard pirates and a pretty interesting pirate ship. The directions are quite simple, and somewhat vague. Templates would have been very useful for some drawing projects like the cardboard pirates as well as the clay and cardboard cannon. The layout of the instructions is not very straightforward. Some crafters may get the steps confused if they do not pay attention to the numbers accompanying the instructions. The pictures do a great deal to explain the craft as well, so younger crafters may need some adult assistance to interpret the pictures. These are not quick storytime crafts, but these projects would provide a suitable backdrop for a story, which the book suggests. Most children will be able to come up with a more compelling tale then the silly story that concludes this volume, but this is a serviceable craft book on a popular topic. 2010, Enslow, $22.60. Ages 6 to 10. Reviewer: Tiffany Torbeck (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780766037281

Pirate vs. Pirate: The Terrific Tale of a Big, Blustery Maritime Match

Mary Quattlebaum

Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

Pirates are all the rage these days. Disney feeds the hype on the big screen with the Pirates of the Caribbean series, on TV with Jake and the Never-land Pirates, and on the printed page with a variety of books, including this one. The bearded Bad Bart and the maven Mean Mo meet on the high seas to find out, once and for all, which of them is the best pirate in the whole world. They spit insults at each other, swim with sharks, hurl cannonballs, arm wrestle, and eat hardtack. Every test ends in a tie. The final contest is a treasure-counting test. Bad Bart counts higher and higher; Mean Mo counts higher and higher. The results are in–again, a tie! Bart and Mo realize at last that they have found their equal in each other. A frenzy of treasure sharing leads to sweet words and finally marriage. After a honeymoon in a pirate lagoon, they sail into the sunset in side-by-side pirate ships. Bust out your best pirate-speak and enjoy the dialogue of this rivalry-turned-romance. 2011, Hyperion/Disney Book Group, Ages 4 to 10, $16.99. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781423122012

Pirateria : The Wonderful Plunderful Pirate Emporium

Calef Brown.

Privateer, mutineer, buccaneer, or just a pirate-loving reader, all must know that “Pirateria is the number one pirate store.” Playing with words and intermittent rhymes, Brown brings to life an emporium stocked with anything a pirate could possibly need, from clothing and lime quinine “to ward off the scurvy” to jibs and walking planks for ships. The merchandising is great fun, with weekly specials like “a fresh batch of eye patches” in assorted colors, all displayed on nine smiling pirates on the facing page. There are assorted buckled shoes, with the suggestion that you buy an extra, “in case you lose one.” And don’t forget message bottles in case of shipwreck. The “helpful sales staff may look like riffraff,” but they’ll help you find whatever you need. “Set your sails for Pirateria!” The assortment of cartoon-y pirates and even the traditional parrot are rendered with acrylic paints in a manner suggesting cut paper. The visuals mainly illustrate the humorous text by depicting how the pirates can use the suggested items in their pirate practice. The end pages are covered with monochromatic drawings of some of these items, along with advertising designed to encourage purchase of these “real deals” and a visit to the Food Court. 2012, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, Ages 4 to 8, $16.99. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781416978787

Pirates at the Plate

Aaron Frisch

Illustrations by Mark Summers.

Sure, the Pirates play for Pittsburgh and the Cowboys play (football) in Dallas, but Summers and Frisch have something else in mind: buccaneers versus cowherds in a rousing, rules-defying game of baseball. Several storied figures appear: Wild Bill (Hickok) and Hopalong Cassidy pitch for the Cowboys (Cassidy is seen literally “warming up in the bullpen,” toasting his hands over a campfire, surrounded by steer). Summers both illustrated and conceived of his debut children’s book–his dramatic scratchboard caricatures of authors graced the signage and shopping bags at Barnes & Noble for years–and his illustrations give the book a regal air, despite the mischief players on both teams get up to and the many puns Frisch employs. When a “big-bopping Bluebeard wait on deck, he’s seen kneeling, baseball bat in hand, aboard a storm-tossed ship in an eerily majestic wordless spread. That somber mood doesn’t last, though: on the next page, Long John (Silver) “blasts one deep to center field” using a cannon. It’s a rip-roaring story, and even the twist ending doesn’t diminish its sense of playfulness and fun. 2012, Creative Editions, Ages 6–up, $17.99. Reviewer: Publishers Weekly.

ISBN: 9781568462103

Remarkable : A Novel

Lizzie K. Foley.

If you could tell a book by its title, then Foley’s debut novel Remarkable is aptly named. Open this book, suspend your imagination, and enter the town of Remarkable, where every resident is indeed remarkable–everyone except for Jane Doe. The story follows the Doe family, with Jane’s brilliant architect mother, award-winning novelist father, supremely artistic brother, and math genius sister. The only family member plain, ordinary Jane can relate to is Grandpa Doe, who, aside from being married to the town’s mayor, goes unnoticed himself. This book is overflowing with quirky characters and situations. Jane encounters the evil genius Grimlet twins, a girl with perfect musical pitch in search of her favorite long-lost musician, a pirate, and then more pirates. All of these characters and events intertwine in a fairy-tale-like fashion. Along the way, readers will be surprised at some of the twists and turns the characters take. The book is an engrossing page-turner, leaving the reader wanting to know more about what will happen with these peculiar characters in their extraordinary town. Readers will find themselves chuckling at the absurdities yet cheering on Jane as she does her mediocre best to hold things together. The writing is funny, clever, and engaging and concludes that being ordinary is really not so bad. Foley has created a remarkable first book that will delight younger, as well as older, readers. 2012, Dial/Penguin, Ages 11 to 18, $16.99. Reviewer: Ursula Adams (VOYA, August 2012).

ISBN: 9780803737068

The Sea Wolves

Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon

Illustrations by Greg Ruth

Horrors confront eighteen-year-old Jack London when pirates seize him from the ship Umatilla in this second “The Secret Journeys of Jack London” novel. Captive Jack strives to survive aboard the pirate vessel Larsen as its crew traverses the northern Pacific Ocean in search of prey. Tyrannical Captain Ghost cruelly torments Jack and agitates his crew, foreshadowing the beastly, unnatural terrors and carnage they will inflict. When a full moon rises, Jack is jolted by the shocking realization the crew is a werewolf pack. He is bewitched by Sabine, an enigmatic psychic whom Ghost relies on to navigate toward ships to plunder. Sabine divulges information regarding herself, Ghost, and his monstrous crew. Jack learns of the rivalry between Ghost and his brother Death who is stalking Ghost. He plans to escape the bloodthirsty werewolves and rescue Sabine. The weak versus strong theme echoes throughout the text as anxiety builds within Jack, testing his confidence in his abilities and if he can trust his perceptions. This provocative novel skillfully incorporates biographical and literary aspects from London’s life and works to create a plausible narrative. The ship is a character, antagonizing all aboard with its claustrophobic tendencies. Vivid imagery of fog banks and silver bullets, sensory details, and high-energy storytelling plunge readers into a convincing setting, perhaps startling many readers to glance over their shoulders in case a lupine pirate is hunting them. Illustrations effectively provide ominous glimpses of settings and characters. A map shows where Jack traveled. Read with Jack London’s The Sea-Wolf (1904) to examine how its literary elements have been appropriated for this supernatural twist to a classic tale. 2012, HarperCollins Children’s Books, Ages 10 up, 16.99. Reviewer: Elizabeth D. Schafer (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780061863202

Shiver Me Timbers

Douglas Florian

Illustrated by Robert Neubecker.

Florian’s brief verses, one or two per double page, celebrate with humor the adventures of pirate life along with some of the shortcomings. “Pirate Patter” is an introduction to salty pirate language, in which, “There is no word for please.” Hiring practices are discussed, along with pirate food, treasure, flags, and weapons. The rhymes are filled with word play along with fun. “A pirate’s life is topsy-turvy./ Full of strife and rife with scurvy.” The conclusion is, “Days of boring life at sea–/ A pirate’s life is not fer me!” India ink drawings on watercolor paper are lively, digitally colored cartoons that tend to exaggerate the actions of the text. A pirate chest has a skeleton astride its lid; scary eyes are illustrated with bloodshot orbs on a totally black page; a model pirate appears loaded with all manner of weapons along with eye patch and parrot; etc. The images add considerably to the fun. 2012, Beach Lane, Ages 6 to 9, $16.99. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz.

ISBN: 9781442413214


Carrie Vaughn.

New York : HarperTeen, c2011.

Jill intends to win her final fencing tournament and qualify for the Junior World Fencing Championships, but at the last instant she hesitates, and the medal goes to her opponent instead. Even a trip to the Bahamas with her family does not ease her disappointment. Jill keeps to herself, reads, and walks the beach. One day she discovers the rusted tip of a rapier. She pockets it, imagining swashbuckling pirate duels. The next day, when Jill joins her family on an excursion boat, she is washed over the side during a freak storm. She is amazed to be yanked roughly out of the water and onto a real pirate ship. Alone in a violent historical past, Jill discovers that swordsmanship is not just a game–it can mean the difference between life and death. The author makes time travel believable by keeping Jill guessing. Familiar devices for such a transition, like a head injury or coma, are discarded as her life aboard the pirate ship stretches into weeks. The rapier tip, which allows her to be transported back in time, holds special significance to Jill’s captain and ultimately provides Jill with a way home. Marjory Cooper, the female captain, provides an interesting variation to the traditional pirate crew. Historical details add a jarring, realistic touch to what might have been a predictable story as Jill discovers that daily life on a ship involves more drudgery than action. This unique story should have broad appeal among athletic girls, making it a good purchase for both school and public libraries. 2011, HarperTeen, Ages 11 to 18, $16.99. Reviewer: Nancy Wallace (VOYA).

ISBN: 9780061547911

When You’re a Pirate Dog and Other Pirate Poems

Eric Ode

illustrated by Jim Harri

Pirates are the featured topic in this collection of over twenty-five amusing poems. Enjoy the rhyme about Captain Myrtle and her custom-made turtle boots and the use of alliteration that describes Pirate Pat’s feathery, fine hat. Find out why the cook’s tough biscuits caused Captain Jake to weep and why Captain Casper’s crew is digging around the isle for treasure. Laugh or gag over the ingredients listed in rhyming verse for pirate stew. The detailed illustrations brightly add bold color to the pages with pictures of snaggletooth pirates and strange beasts encountered on the high seas. In the middle of the book, readers will find a cutaway illustration of a ship called the Puffer Fish with funny notes about the activities on board, such as the pirates bowling with cannonballs or the crewmember with acrophobia watching from his specially constructed crow’s nest. Ode’s writing and Harris’ illustrations work well together for young buccaneers to read, laugh, and enjoy. 2012, Pelican, Ages 5 to 9, $17.99. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781455614936

You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Pirate’s Prisoner! Horrible Things You’d Rather Not Know

John Malam

Illustrated by David Antram

This isn’t your grandmother’s history book! Malam takes what appears to be a flippant look at the fate of a pirate’s prisoner, after briefly giving some background on piracy in the 1700s. A significant bit of information is packed into the second person and eyewitness narrative, cartoons, and helpful hints. While the text and chapter headings are written in a lighthearted manner, the material being covered is not; in fact Milam seems to go for the shock factor to lure in readers, especially reluctant ones, through graphic descriptions of dangers and treatment of prisoners. He explains why Spanish galleons traveled as fleets, the evolution of privateers to pirates and why pirates took prisoners as well as treasure, the pirate crew, life onboard for the prisoner, abandonment on an island, and rescue. Readers are not shielded from the horrors of life as a prisoner; if disease didn’t kill the prisoner, surviving the flogging, water torture and burning well might. This revised edition includes new back- and front-matter not included in the original 2002 edition: a timeline, a map of notorious pirates, facts about pirates and a short list of notorious pirates. The main body, glossary, and index of the book, however, are exactly the same as the 2002 edition; both are part of “You Wouldn’t Want to Be” series.

2013 (orig. 2002), Franklin Watts, Ages 9 to 12, $29.00 and $9.95. REVIEWER: Peg Glisson

ISBN: 9780531275023, 9780531280270

Updated 03/01/13

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