Captain Firebeard's School for Pirates by Chae Strathie and Anna Chernyshova
|Captain Firebeard's School for Pirates by Chae Strathie and Anna Chernyshova|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: While evidently being just a series introduction, this book is great fun, and its distinctive look will only help its pull to the young reader.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: August 2016|
|Publisher: Scholastic Press|
How do you become a pirate? I'm guessing you just fall into the job – after all, with only so many waterways and so much treasure to go round, you'd never have one pirate teaching another all he knows, would you? Well, in the world of this book you would – for the most peculiar-looking pirate ship is the Rusty Barnacle, and it is, as you'd guess, where Captain Firebeard teaches his pupils in the language and history of pirates. But have innocent Tommy, nervous Milton and gung-ho tomboy Jo bitten off more than they can chew? Or can their plans to surprise their teachers actually bring home the loot?
This is a very appealing read for the primary school age bracket, and with a quality and most distinctive visual style I can't see it languishing on the shop shelves for long. No, the author doesn't provide much in the way of surprise – the nasty pupils are flagged up immediately, as is the friendship between our three heroes, and little about the plot will shock anyone. Nor does he go all-out with the comedy, but as he's definitely erred on quality over quantity I found all the gags worked and was only grateful for that. He is also slightly hampered by having to set up not this book but a whole series, with all the characters given to us before anything particularly piratical can happen, but here that problem wasn't as insurmountable as I've seen it in the past, and there is just enough story to keep the reader happy.
But a captain cannot run a ship single-handed (even with a hook for a second hand), and an author cannot get all the credit for a book like this. The style of it all is wonderful – large print on smoky pages, so nothing looks routine or wordy, and liberal illustrations carry the colour scheme from the front cover on to every other page – the book is entirely black and white and orange. Now, this does cause a couple of problems – in the first chapter the text wilfully mentions red this, red that and red the other and never any other colour, which is funny when all we see is bright orange. Also, when quotes and some lines are in orange I was reminded of how simplified on the page the dyslexic audience for this would prefer things, and unusual fonts in pale orange on top of smoke is not at all simplified.
But for the rest of us, this is one of those books where you immediately hope for more volumes in the series. This has a vivid, cartoonish feel – the scaredy parrot wrapping its wings across his owner's face in fright, causing no end of problems, and more – and a brio and briskness that makes it quite a delight to read. These pages are perfectly self-contained and cover one term at the School for Pirates, but I'm damn sure there will be demand not just from me for the rest of the academic year and beyond. It's a witty little piece of fun, and no mistake, me hearties.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson is another great dollop of fun, considering a very different school meeting pirates.
You can read more book reviews or buy Captain Firebeard's School for Pirates by Chae Strathie and Anna Chernyshova at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Captain Firebeard's School for Pirates by Chae Strathie and Anna Chernyshova at Amazon.com.
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