Ol' Chumbucket's Book Club

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Pirates are hot, and nowhere hotter than in the publishin' world, where the Pirate Guys aren't the only ones with a book on the subject. Here are just a few that have come across our bow. Check our links page for still more piratical books

Books for junior pirates

Even the littlest ones are gettin' in on this pirate stuff. Why, from th' looks o' the recent publishing lineup, pirates may be the dinosaurs of the decade..

A Pirate's Guide to First Grade
by James Preller, with (fantastic) illustrations by Greg Ruth
Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan)
ISBN-13: 978-0312369286

Ol' Chumbucket says:

I am mad. Angry. Gnashing my teeth. At myself. Because this is a really good book and I'm mad that Cap'n Slappy and I didn't write it. Although if we had, it would probably be inappropriate for children so I don't know what the point would have been. But "A Pirate's Guide to First Grade" is a delightful book that kids will love. THAT'S the point.

"A Pirate's Guide to Kindergarten" tells the swashbuckling tale of a wee nipper off for his first day of school. The lad is obsessed with pirates (what proper youngster isn't?) and sees everything through that prism.

The boy tells his tale in pirate talk – "Down in the galley, I mashed me choppers on grub and drowned it with grog. Time to set sheets to the wind!" he says, instead of "I ate breakfast, then it was time to go."

On this voyage of discovery the youngster is excited to be at school, but it takes a very special teacher - er, captain - to know exactly how to reach the buccaneer besotted boyo.

The story is good, but it's the illustrations that make the book so special. Ruth renders the boy and his surroundings in bright colors, but the artist also surrounds the character with the sketched-in images of the pirate crew that accompanies him everywhere. It lends a fantasy element that elevates "A Pirate's Guide to the First Grade" beyond a mere storybook.

It also contain a glossary to all the pirate terms in the story. See? Slappy and I should have written this! But we didn't. James Preller did and he did a grand job. And don't think for a minute you want to see a book illustrated by Slappy and meself. No matter what I try to draw it comes out as a drunken rabbit. And I'm the GOOD artist of the two. No, Preller's words are well illustrated by Greg Ruth. A fine, fine job.

If' you're the parent of a sprog that's almost ready for school, you'll want this book on the shelf. You'll be pulling it down often to share the adventure with yer wee one, before sending him or her out for their own adventures at school.

I'm givin' "A Pirate's Guide to the First Grade" four big tankards of grog!

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Book of Pirates

The Book of Pirates
A Guide to Plundering, Pillaging and Other Pursuits
by Jamaica Rose and Captain Michael MacLeod
Ages 9-12
Gibbs Smith (2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1423606703

Ol' Chumbucket says:

If you only buy one pirate book this year, make it "The Book of Pirates," by Jamaica Rose and Captain Michael MacLeod.*

*Note - When I say that, I assume of course that you already own our books - Pirattitude" and "The Pirate Life." If you don't, buy all three. But why would you only buy one pirate book? That's just silly.

But my point is, "The Book of Pirates" is terrific. It's written for a young audience, age 8 and up, but any age will enjoy this one. It's encyclopedic, going over where pirates come from, how they dressed, famous buccaneers, a timeline of pirate history, what kind of weapons they used, ships they sailed, food they ate, even how to talk like a pirate. Yes, that's a lot of the same ground we covered in our two books (which you should buy many copies of) but the difference is -- Cap'n Slappy and I freely admit we make stuff up for a laugh. Jamaica Rose and Cap'n MacLeod know what they're talking about. Yet even wth the handicap of being "fact-based" they manage to be entertaining.

And it's more even than that. The book is, of course, written for kids, and the fact that Jamaica Rose -- in her other life -- is a teacher makes a big difference. They not only talk about how pirates dressed, they offer tips to how to create your own pirate wardrobe, without destroying your good clothes. Or how to make your own cutlass (not a real one, of course, this is a kids' book.) Or cook pirate food. It's a great mix of fact, style and do-it-yourself.

"The Book of Pirates" is the best pirate book I've read since "Empire of Blue Water" (which, if it's not on your shelf you should get. So now that's four books you need to buy.) I've always said Jamaca Rose is one of two people I know who knows everything there is to know about pirates, and if she doesn't know, she knows who does, and she's always glad to share that knowledge. In "The Book of Pirates" she and Capn McLeod do just that. It's an instant classic.

It's also beautifully made. A hardcover with fancy endsheets, great layouts, graphics and design. And for all that, it's a bargain at $12.99.

On a scale of one to five mugs, "The Book of Pirates" earns five mugs of ale AND a tot of rum!

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More great titles for the wee ones

Pirates Don't Change Diapers
by Melinda Long, David Shannon
Harcourt Children's Books (2007)
ISBN-10: 0152053530

Ol' Chumbucket says:

Let's just say it – David Shannon is a genius. That's all there is to it. Without his work, Melinda Long's two pirate books for kids would be good. With them, "How I Became a Pirate" and the new sequel, "Pirates Don't Change Diapers" are fantastic, two of the best read-along picture books I've seen.

The new book is wonderful, in some ways, even better than the original. "How I Became a Pirate" showed a kid in a pirate's world. In "Pirates Don't Change Diapers," the new book, the pirates come into his world and are comically confounded by all sorts of things, especially .... the boy's baby sister.

The story is fun, but like I said, the illustrations are fabulous.

My son and I especially got a kick out of the drawing of the pirates trying to figure out the disposable diaper, with one getting the thing caught on his hook and another wearing one over his head like a very different eye patch.

"Pirates Don't Change Diapers" is a terrific book for the little pirate in your life. You'll have as much fun reading it to the nipper as he or she will while you read it aloud. It's another instant classic.

And David Shannon is a genius.

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Pirate Mom
by Deborah Underwood
Random House Books for Young Readers (2006)
ISBN-10: 0375833234

Ol' Chumbucket says:

This is an early reader story that tells of a boy who loves pirates and his mom who doesn't – until she's accidentally hypnotized and thinks she IS a pirate! There's trouble with the neighbors, with the mailman, with the PTA and the police. The story is a level 3 "early self-reader" book and my son, Young Chumpail, gobbled it up and loved it. It's a book you'll enjoy reading with your kids, but a youngster can read by him or herself. Definitely add it to your kid's bookshelf.

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Books for grownup pirates

Flint and Silver

Flint and Silver
by John Drake

Simon & Schuster, ISBN-10: 141659275X

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Ol' Chumbucket says:

I had never thought of "Treasure Island" as a story needing either a prequel or sequel. Yes, there was a long history leading up to the events that embroiled young Jim Hawkins with Long John Silver and his gang of cutthroats, but really, isn't that true of every story, and life in general?

Yet, as John Drake, author of "Flint & Silver" notes, TI is like watching a train go by and only seeing the last couple of cars. There's a long history there, and in "Flint & Silver," his prequel to the classic, he mines that history beautifully.

In "Flint & Silver" we meet Long John Silver early in his career – actually at the very moment he becomes a pirate. But Long John denies that he's anything so crass as a pirate. He and his crew are "gentlemen rovers," or a brotherhood of adventurers, men who have signed articles and made common cause against the world. Not pirates. And his openness, his willingness to take people at face value and expect them to do the same for him, becomes his tragic flaw. He trusts Flint.

Drake presents Flint, who of course is mentioned often in TI as the most frightening creature ever to sail the seven seas, not so much as a psychopath but as a full-blown sociopath, a man who does what he wants for his own reasons without ever considering how it affects anyone else, including his crew.

It's a good story, full of action and adventure, swashbuckling and skullduggery. "Flint & Silver" is a grand adventure featuring characters you'll be glad to meet again for the first time, familiar figures that you'll see in formation, finding out how they'll become the characters you remember so fondly from Stevenson's classic. Drake's book is worthy of Stevenson.

But I can't give it a full five tankards, the perfect score. Not because there's anything wrong with it, but because it's not complete. There is no clue until the end that the story isn't going to conclude but is in fact the first of a series of prequels. This makes it a little frustrating as you approach the end, looking at the dwindling number of pages and asking, "How can he possibly wrap this up?" The answer is, he doesn't. He ends the first part of the story satisfactorily, but that's where you finally realize there's much more to come.

So I'm giving "Flint & Silver" a provisional three tankards of grog. Depending on where it goes in the next book or books, I reserve the right to come back and increase the score.

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"Empire of Blue Water," by Steven Talty.
Three Rivers Press
ISBN: 978-0307236616

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Ol' Chumbucket says:

This may be the best book on pirates I've ever read (not counting ours, of course.) It's certainly one of the top two or three. Fascinating history that reads like the best swashbuckling novel. It's the story of Henry Morgan, who came to the Caribbean as a young man eager for fame and fortune. He became the key player in the war between the Spanish Empire and England, and his bloody exploits across the sea – from Maracaibo to Panama City – are great reading. Talty also creates a combined figure, a typical member of Morgan's crew, to help the reader understand the life and motivations of the average buccaneer.

The story winds to London and Madrid, but stays centered in the Caribbean, where the action takes place. And what action! Raids, pilfering, plundering, torture, kidnapping! There's treasure and carousing and dirty deeds, all the stuff that warms a freebooter's heart. Talty is able to place the action in the context of the political and economic currents of the time, so that when you're finished, you'll understand how and why the buccaneers won, and why their victory made it impossible for them to continue. The forces that unleashed them, now victorious, couldn't countenance their continued depredations. The earthquake that flattened Port Royal puts the final catastrophic exclamation point on their history, and Talty tells the tale chillingly. But it was the buccaneers' success that brought about their downfall. This, I believe, is the textbook definition of irony.

"Empire of Blue Water" is a must read for anyone who fancies pirates and wants to know their true story. It's a great book, and earns five tankards o' grog on a scale of five.

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"Silver," a novel by Edward Chupack
St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN: 978-0312539368

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Ol' Chumbucket says:

The subtitle of this book clues you in – "My Own Tale as Written By Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder." It's the long-awaited memoir of Long John Silver, a fictional pirate so masterfully created by Robert Louis Stevenson and powerfully portrayed on screen by Robert Newton that he's more real to us than many actual pirates.

In "Silver," Chupack has created an alternate story to Stevenson's masterpiece. Readers should not waste time trying to match up the events in this book with those in "Treasure Island," it's a different story. Many of the names and a handful of the events are sort of the same, but Chupack's story takes a different tack. He's letting Silver tell his own tale, and you can certainly enjoy this without feeling you're betraying the Stevenson classic. So don't worry that this Silver hurts his leg, but never loses it. It's a different story, mate, and a fun one, although dark and dangerous.

In this version, an aging Silver has been captured and is being brought back to England for hanging. Imprisoned in his cabin, he's setting down his story, taunting his captor with clues about a fabulous treasure the two of them had pursued for decades. Starting with his early life as a beggar and thief on the streets of Bristol, Silver frankly accounts the murders, betrayals and other black deeds that marked his career. Mind you, he's not trying to justify or excuse his actions, and this is probably not a book for the wee ones. He's just telling you what happened and what kind of person he is.

And, like any good pirate story, there's a treasure at the heart of this tale. Chupack strews clues throughout the story, the clues that Silver and his cronies – friend and foe alike, have been following since they first found that Bible with the bloody inscription. And to his captor he dangles some bait – Silver has amassed his own amazing fortune, hidden away somewhere in the world, and he's left clues to its whereabouts in the manuscript, clues the reader is welcome to try to unravel.

The book's title may be "Silver" but it's a tale told in black deeds and red blood. And it's a fine read for a stormy night at sea when the ship lies at anchor with the wind roaring,, the boards and rigging creaking and waves slapping the oaken hull.

Four tankards of grog on a scale of five.

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"How To Speak Pirate," by Geordie Teller
Arctic Raven Publishing
ISBN: 978-0969497783

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Ol' Chumbucket says:

Geordie Teller brings us a new take on something that you know is right up our alley – Pirate talk. Our first book ("Well Blow Me Down" which became "Pirattude!") started as a pirate lexicon and sort of got out of hand. Teller's book is far more comprehensive than ours, while not being nearly as funny. Another difference is that in our book we say right up front not to trust anything we say because we made it all up and any time we were right it was by accident. Teller waits until the end of the book to allow as how, while he hasn't actually made stuff up, he has played sort of fast and loose from time to time. But he's not as forthcoming with where he did that, which casts a shadow on all of it. You can use the book for fun on Talk Like a Pirate Day, but I wouldn't for any kind of serious purpose – from literary to acdemic.

This is not a problem for guys like us, because we have no serious literary or academic pretensions and we doubt most of you do either. As Geordie points out, his book is called "How to Speak Pirate," not "How Pirates Really Talked" and he's after –and has caught – the fun of stereotypical pirate patois. This is a fine book for folks who want to parade their pirate persona with appropriate panache applied to his personal palaver. It's of much less value to serious linguists or historians, but what would they be doing acting like pirates anyway? They're supposed to be in the library, sipping sherry and arguing about whether "Aarrr" has three Rs or four.

This book falls somewhere in between George Choudras' comprehensive "The Pirate Primer," the complete and best-researched book on pirate patois I've ever seen, and Terry Bremerton's "The Pirate Dictionary," which is a good book but is so incompetently produced, with typos on almost every page, that it's really hard to take seriously. If you want some serious scholarship on how pirates in literature and film talked, go with Choudras's book. If you want some light reading to prime you for the upcoming holiday, Geordie Teller's "How to Talk Pirate" might be just the thing you need.

(And, it goes without saying, whichever group you fall in, you definitely want to buy our two books, "Pirattitude!" and "The Pirate Life: Unleashing Your Inner Buccaneer." Already have copies of both? Let me suggest you don't have ENOUGH copies of both.)

I'd give "How To Talk Pirate," three tankards of rum.

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Previously recommended:

Cover: How I Became A Pirate

How I Became A Pirate:
by Melinda Long, David Shannon
# Harcourt Children's Books (2003)
ISBN: 0152018484

Harcourt's Children's Books weighs anchor with How I Became a Pirate, a picture book for the baby-preschool set by Melinda Long, with marrrr-velous piratical illustrations by Caldecott-winner David Shannon.

Ol' Chumbucket says:

"Jeremy is ... playing at the beach when a pirate ship sails into view. The pirates, who have a treasure chest that needs burying (and what pirate crew doesn’t?) are so impressed with Jeremy’s sand digging that they invite him to join the crew. He agrees, as long as he’s home for soccer practice the next day ...

"The highlight of this book is (David) Shannon’s illustrations. These wonderfully whimsical pictures invite you to stare, and you find more and more humorous detail every time you look. ... Ol’ Chumbucket is here to tell ya that they perfectly capture life on a pirate ship. That’s exactly the chaotic scene of dinner around the pirates' mess aboard MY ship (or would be if I had a ship, Aaarr!)."

More of Shannon's illustrations, courtesy of the publisher:

Jeremy Jacob meets Braidbeard and his crew

Off to sea

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Pirates of Pensacola

The Pirates of Pensacola
by Keith Thompson
Thomas Dunne Books, 2005
ISBN: 0312334990
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Ol Chumbucket says:

"Terrific, hilarious. A modern day pirate story that's part Robert Louis Stevenson, part Jimmy Buffett and part Doug Adams."

The Pirate Primer
by George Choundas
Writers Digest Books (March 29, 2007)
ISBN-13: 978-1582974897

Ol' Chumbucket says:

" ... a college-level seminar on how to speak the language of pirates. It has everything – everything – you'd ever want to know about the pirate lexicon. ...:

(Read the complete review in The Poopdeck)

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Will Eisner's Hawks of the Seas
by Will Eisner

Dark Horse (July 23, 2003)
ISBN-10: 1569714274
ISBN-13: 978-1569714270

Ol' Chumbucket writes:

" ... the almost complete collection of a comic strip that ran in the late 1930s. It tells the swashbuckling adventures of The Hawk, a hero almost too good to be true. He and his crew are not exactly pirates – they are on a mission to stamp out the slave trade and turn their nose up at the very thought of ill-gotten booty – but their adventures and actions are all in the best buccaneering tradition.

"Eisner's drawings are terrific, his composition and framing were years ahead of their time, and here they lend a dramatic urgency to the action that's just terrific. The story of "Hawks of the Sea" is good. The art work is terrific.

"Eisner, who died in 2005, was one of the patron saints of American comics. His early work is as alive today as it was when he drew it for a society just discovering the fun of graphic entertainment. "Hawks of the Sea" is a valuable addition to any seafarer's collection of piratey literature."

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The Sea Witch
by Helen Hollick
BookForce UK Ltd (February 6, 2007)
# ISBN-10: 1905108141
# ISBN-13: 978-1905108145

Ol' Chumbucket writes:

" ... part pirate tale, part romance, part historical novel, part a story of witchcraft and magic, and probably a couple of other things I’m not quite clever enough to have noticed. ...While there's plenty of swashbuckling and adventure in this yarn that spans the Atlantic and touches on four continents, , the main business of the book is the seemingly doomed romance between the buccaneer Jesemiah and the lovely white witch Tiola. ... Alongside the two lovers are a cast of colorful characters – from pirates to evil lubbers and even a prim and proper governess. It all makes for a fun read..."

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And there's many, many more book reviews to come. I'm way behind on my reading, and my apologies to all the authors and publishers who've sent books (or in one case hand-delivered it.) I'll get them all done soon. In the coming months reviews will include:

All are worth a read for very different reasons. For the full reviews, watch upcoming issues of The Poopdeck!



Black Beard
America's Most Notorious Pirate

by Angus Konstam
Wiley & Sons, New York
ISBN 0-471-75885-X

Ol' Chumbucket says:

" ... it's fascinating, and does a nice job of balancing myth and fact and showing why the things we "know" aren't always so. A good addition to any pirate fancier's library."

(Read the complete review in The Poopdeck

Heart of a Pirate
by Pamela Johnson
BCH Fulfillment & Distribution (July 1, 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-0615275604

Ol' Chumbucket says:

"Sometimes a sword fight is a sword fight, and sometimes it's foreplay. ... Heart of a Pirate is a tale well told, an entertaining and intriguing tale of what life might have been like for Anne Bonny, the most famous female in pirate history.

"I give it three tankards of grog out of a possible five."

(Read the complete review in The Poopdeck)


More reviews coming soon!

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