Pirate Princess by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Pirate Princess by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen with superb illustrations by Jill McElmurry is a welcome addition to the relatively small world of good pirate picture books, especially since it features that rare creature, the pirate girl. I'm sorry, I can't say "pirate girl" without starting to sing this awesome They Might Be Giants song that I have to include here for your listening enjoyment as this seems to be turing into the all-inclusive-pirate-experience at books4yourkids.com...

As always, Julie Danielson is several steps ahead of me and has had Jill McElmurry stop by 7 Impossible Things to talk about her two new books, Pirate Princess and Mario Makes a Move, which she wrote and illustrated. McElmurry, who illustrated Alice Schertle's fantastic Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way books featured in my article The Changing Face of Board Books has a style for Pirate Princess that fits somewhere between Virginia Lee Burton and Tomie dePaoloa, creating a kind of instant-classic feel. Although the format fit is awkward, I had to include McElmurry's evolution spreads so you could read her captions and get a real feels for her process.
I love, love, love the final look of Princess Pirate Bea! I think the glasses are the perfect touch, as is the skirt and the big buckle shoes. Captain Jack definitely cuts a fine figure and the purple hair is the best!

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen's rhyming tale of a princess who wants nothing more than to sail the seas with a band of brigands is told in rhyme. For some reason, a fair number of pirate stories are told in rhyme (see below.) This definitely makes for a jaunty feel to the events of the story. The skull & cross bones pjs are pretty cool, too...

A walk along the quay and a the happy coincidence of finding a pirate ship anchored nearby change Bea's life forever.

A rough bunch (this group of scallywags went through a few changes before the final version of Pirate Princess went to press) of buccaneers, Captain Jack (why is it always Jack?) puts Bea to work to earn her keep. 
This is where the book really takes off. It is great fun watching Bea attempt (and fail) at the bottom-rung jobs she is assigned. Swabbing the deck ends with Jack tripping over the bucket and angrily sending her belowdecks to be the cooking wench. My favorite illustration in the whole book is Bea in the galley, surrounded by the icky but wonderfully illustrated ingredients at hand, below.

When Bea fails at cooking she is sent into the crow's nest where she promptly vomits all over the crew resulting in yet another great illustration (that you have to turn sideways to fully enjoy) and the most tasteful rendering of upchuck ever. Finally, as she is about the walk the plank, her one useful princess skill kicks in and she saves the day and secures her place on board. 
Bowser, Bea's sidekick


I'm sure you all know Melinda Long and David Shannon's PIRATE books, but did you know that in 1995 Shannon illustrated The Ballad of the Pirate Queens by Jane Yolen?

The Ballad of the Pirate Queens is a great example of David Shannon's more painterly style of illustration and is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Yolen's ballad is lovely and evocative of writing from the time like the repeating stanza, "And silver the coins and silver the moon,/ Silver the waves on the top of the sea,/ When the pirate ship comes sailing in,/ The gallant Vanity." The ballad tells the story of the real pirate girls, Anne Bonney and Mary Reade who sailed with Calico Jack Rackham aboard the Vanity in the 1700s. The Vanity was captured by the man-of-war Albion because Anne and Mary were the only two crew members on deck and willing to fight. The rest of the crew was belowdecks drinking and playing cards. The Ballad of the Pirate Queens is still in print AND IN PAPERBACK!!!

The wonderfully, brilliantly talented Brett Helquist brings us Roger, the Jolly Pirate. Roger is just too cheerful and odd to fit in with the crew and is scorned by his shipmates until he saves the day by baking a cake in the middle of a battle to very explosive ends. Roger, the Jolly Pirate is is still in print AND IN PAPERBACK!!!

Tough Boris by the amazing Mem Fox, covers all the pirate bases in a very knowing way. However, when his parrot dies he cried and cried. Fox's text is spare but powerful. In David McPhail's Edward and the Pirates, learning to read opens up Edward's world and his imagination and a crew of pirates creeps in. Being able to read, and his parents who appear as Joan of Arc and Robin Hood, save the day.

Johnny Duddle is the author and illustrator of this due of rhyming pirate tales. The Pirate Cruncher is set squarely in the realm of pirates and has a bit of a surprise ending. The Pirates Next Door is set in the little town of Dull-on-Sea (sister city, Ennui-en-Mer) and is more of a fish/pirate out of water story.

Carolyn Crimi's books about a book-loving-buccaneer bunny named Henry are very funny and marvelously illustrated by John Manders
Both are in PAPERBACK!!

I love, love, love Colin McNaughton's Pirate School trilogy. Sadly, it's out of print in America.

Yes, Pirates celebrate Christmas. I have read The Gingerbread Pirates at story time with great success. It is a solid story with nice attention to details and great illustrations.

Pirates and bedtime seem to be a good match in these two tales.

And, of course, the myth of the dirty, smelly pirate will never be washed away as long as these picture book authors have anything to do with it.

A few more pirate books, just in case you need more...


Fantastic Pirate Books for Older Readers 
and links to my reviews:

Sadly, Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page is out of print, but Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter is still available in the large format picture book form. Both of these books were published in two formats - the large picture book size, as seen above, and smaller chapter book size which has fewer of the wonderful illustrations by Chris Riddell ( see the Edge Chronicles below).

Geraldine McCaughrean's Peter Pan in Scarlet is the sequel to Peter Pan and was authorized by his estate. It is fantastic, but chilling at times. She writes a great adventure but also captures the melancholy that lingered around the edges of Barrie's book.

Although they are Sky Pirates, Stewart and Riddell's Edge Chronicles series is rich with all that comes with life onboard a ship. 
Historical fiction at it's best in Gregory Mone'sFish.

Not a book, but everything you need to get your kids creating their own pirate tales: StoryWorld: Legends of the Sea

As a HUGE, longtime Aardman Animation fan, I have seen the movie The Pirates! (the best yet), for which Gideon Defoe wrote the screenplay. My oldest read the original novel some years ago and enjoyed it. While I cannot comment on age appropriateness, I think there are no naughty bits, no cursing and cartoon violence if any.

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