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Charlotte Jane Battles BedtimeCharlotte Jane Battles Bedtime by Myra Wolfe. Illustrated by Maria Monescillo.

Charlotte Jane is the daughter of two pirates, who have built a beautiful ship-shaped house in the suburbs. They use endearments like “doubloon” and “pomegranate”, managing to seem both devoted parents and still-fierce pirates. Charlotte Jane grows up wanting the very best of life, and at one point decides that “Bedtime [is] not juicy.” She stays up later and later, until one night, she manages to stay awake until sunrise. Victory turns out to be less sweet than she’d expected as she says, “Arr. My oomph’s weighed anchor!” Then follows a hunt, aided by her parents, for Charlotte Jane’s missing oomph. The illustrations are charmingly bright and stripy watercolor and ink drawings. It’s a bedtime book with a fun pirate twist that’s great for older toddlers and preschoolers. My own toddler did not, alas, decide to learn a lesson from the book, but she did enjoy reading it multiple times.
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The Great Piratical RumbustificationThe Great Piratical Rumbustification. The Librarian and the Robbers. by Margaret Mahy. Pictures by Quentin Blake. Margaret Mahy is world-famous children’s author from New Zealand whom I have somehow never heard of before. I’m not quite sure how this book came across my radar, but there it was, a children’s book featuring both pirates and a librarian. How could I resist? Though these are packaged as a children’s chapter book, the book consists of two longish short stories, or maybe short novellas. In “The Great Piratical Rumbustification”, a family with three young boys moves into a house in the suburbs. It’s meant to give the children more room to play, but the cost is so high that their father is always depressed and the boys are not really sure where they can safely let loose. Things change when their mother hires a last-minute babysitter from a service for them, who turns out to be a mostly retired pirate. He sets off a signal in the backyard announcing a Rumbstification, and soon the house is overflowing with partying pirates, an event which changes everyone’s life for the good. In “The Librarian and the Robbers”, a proper but beautiful librarian is kidnapped by a gang of robbers. She wins them over by curing their measles with information in a home nursing guide from the library and by reading them thrilling tales while they are recovering. This contains some tropes that really ought not to be preserved – what is basically Stockholm syndrome combined with the Good Woman Can Cure Evil Man myth. I found myself charmed anyway. Quentin Blake’s characteristic flyaway ink drawings complete the lighthearted feel of the book. I haven’t had a chance to try it on the boy yet, but this feels like a perfect read-aloud book when a picture book is too short and a regular chapter book too long.

Cross-posted to and .

Pirate King

Jan. 7th, 2012 01:29 pm
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book cover Pirate King by Laurie R. King This series has been getting good reviews for years, but this is my first try. It’s set in the 1920s, and Sherlock Holmes has married the much younger Mary Russell. Mysteries of course still ensue. This is the eleventh in the series, and I was finally encouraged to pick it up because it is about pirates. Not just any pirates, but the Pirates of Penzance, the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta which I have adored ever since I didn’t make my high school production of it. So: Fflytte films is a film company famous for filming the real thing. Now, there are two mysteries around it that Mary Russell is investigating: a missing secretary and surges in illicit items like arms and cocaine after Fflytte films does a film about such a subject. The easiest way to investigate is to apply for the missing secretary’s job, which Russell does. The current film – get ready for convolution here – is about a film company making a movie of the Pirates of Penzance (set in Portugal and Morocco instead of the actual Penzance in Cornwall), which gets overtaken by real pirates. Naturally, as the film company in our book heads off for Portugal and Morocco, they too are taken over by real pirates. Dun dun DUNNN!!! Despite the action, Russell felt developed enough as a character to keep the book from being a cardboard-character thriller. This was a mystery that hit the perfect balance of fun and literary without ever getting into the gory. It had plenty of both G&S and classic Holmes references to satisfy geeks of both varieties.

Cross-posted to and .
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book coverPolly and the Pirates by Ted Naifeh Our story opens with the young Polly Pringle at boarding school. She is regarded by her peers as sweet but much too willing to abide by the rules. That very night, her bed is hoisted out of her bedroom onto a pirate ship. She refuses to believe the awful truth at first: she is the only daughter of the famous Pirate Queen, taken as her crew’s last chance to find the Pirate Queen’s Hoard. The Pirate Prince, a handsome and untrustworthy-looking young man, is also after the treasure, and the Navy is after the lot of them. Polly rises to the occasion in a glorious way, proving in a manner quite unsettling to herself that she has inherited large amounts of her mother’s talent at nefarious business. Naifeh’s whimsical art, where the ships look like buildings, suits the story perfectly and is quite different from the moody shaded work he produced for Holly Black’s The Good Neighbors. This is rated for 7 and up, and I think it could go even younger if the child in question can sit still for an exciting story. The book says “Volume 1”, but I regret to say that my visit to Ted Naifeh’s web site failed to turn up any signs of a sequel in the works. Still, there’s a lot to be said for a one-shot story, and this one is highly entertaining.

Originally posted at .


May. 5th, 2010 10:56 am
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book coverBeauvallet by Georgette Heyer Heyer has the reputation of being the mistress of romance, perhaps even the mother of the modern romance novel. I must confess that I’d not read anything of hers before now. This is quite different from the modern romance. The modern romance (as I alluded to in my last post about the genre) has very strict rules regarding the characters, the plot outline, and the ending. The point of the modern romance book is building a strong relationship, with setbacks and romantic interludes at regular points along the way. I would say that Heyer breaks nearly all of the rules, except that it’s more likely that they just hadn’t been articulated yet. It is a journey between two people who find themselves highly attracted to each other in the beginning. There is a happy ending. But the middle is quite different, and there are no love scenes.

So much for what isn’t there, and on to the book itself. The book opens with a sea battle between a Spanish merchant ship and an (in)famous English privateer. The Spanish captain has deliberately antagonized the privateer, Beauvallet, in hopes of impressing the beautiful and single lady whom he is carrying from the colonies to Spain, with her ailing father. Naturally, he fails. Nicholas Beauvallet meets the lady, Dominica Rada y Sylva. There are instant sparks which they both know to be inappropriate (so far following the Basic Plot). Beauvallet sets the rest of the Spanish crew of on a boat to the nearest island, but vows to carry Dominica and her party to Spain, despite the risk to his life. On the journey, they fall more deeply in love. Nicholas says that he will journey back to the heart of Spain to win her hand; Dominica says that he shouldn’t risk his life to do so, but that if he does get there, she will come back to England with him. All of this takes place at the beginning of the book. Then, Nicholas goes back to England to get permission from the Queen to leave the country again. The rest of the book is his Daring Adventure – alone but for his manservant – to make his way into Spain to kidnap the willing Dominica. Matters there have gotten more complicated as well. Dominica’s father has died, leaving her in the care of her noble but impoverished aunt. This lady plan for gaining Dominica’s fortune for her own use is to have Dominica marry her simpering son. The aunt is a delightful villain, lazy and agreeable. When Dominica tells her, for example, that she cannot marry the son because she does not love him, her aunt tells her that marriage will give her the freedom to take all the lovers she wants, but Dominica must marry her son. The whole story is told in beautifully flowery and authentic-sounding language, as like to what I’ve seen less skilled authors try as real fragrant roses are to plastic. On the whole, this is much more like The Princess Bride, with all the swashbuckling but a somewhat toned-down sense of humor than your typical romance book. Dominica manages to be high-spirited while retaining behavior believable to the time period, a very fine line that Heyer walks brilliantly. There manages to be a lot of romantic tension with nothing more than the occasional kiss exchanged, but this is almost more adventure than romance and enjoyable by fans of both genres.
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This book was a thoughtful and very timely gift.

book coverGuide to Pirate Parenting by Tim Bete Are your relatives telling you that you are too soft on your kids? Do you want your children to be bringing in income to help support the family? This book could be for you! Learn how long to maroon disobedient children (one month per age), how to train them in pirate skills and manners, and how to convert your minivan into a pirate ship. If you’re tired of serious parenting books or just need some more piracy in your life, try this book.
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book coverUnder the Jolly Roger by L.A. Meyer. Read by Katherine Kellgren Several years ago, I read the first book in this series, Bloody Jack, a rip-roaring tale of adventure on the high seas, as Mary “Jacky” Faber, street orphan, disguises herself as a boy so as to make an honest living as a ship’s boy. I read it in print at the time, which was fun. Now my love and I are rediscovering the series on audiobook. I think that someday soon I will have to write Katherine Kellgren a fan letter, because she is such an amazing reader. The books are full of people and accents from all over, from Jacky’s Cockney to Irish to Jamaican and American, which Kellgren brings beautifully to life. There are also a number of folk songs, and Kellgren not only has a fine voice for singing them, but also manages to make the different character’s singing voices different. This series is winning her all the major audio book awards, and rightly so, but I also loved her work on the Enola Holmes series, where Enola putting on a Cockney accent still sounds different from Jacky in this one.

Under the Jolly Roger is the third book in the series. Jacky has made her way back to England in search of her beloved Jaimy, from whom she was parted for all of the second book. She has only just found him again, disguised as a boy again, when she is caught by a press gang. This time, the ship (Wolverine) is captained by a lecherous man who refuses to let her go even when she reveals her female nature. Events move quickly, if increasingly improbably, as Jacky works her way from Midshipman (a rank she earned in the first book) up to Lieutenant in the Navy, then captures her own ship and gains a letter of marque so that she can operate as a privateer. We do not care about the improbability, though, any more than we care about the improbability of Indiana Jones, because this is about adventure, pure and simple. Well, with some music and romance thrown in, too, because even though Jacky is broken-hearted about Jaimy in this book and vows to live single, she always has a very hard time resisting a pretty boy, and there are several on the Wolverine. This is a great sea-faring romp for teens and up. It will be good in print, too, but listen to the audio if you possibly can.
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So I went to my local library on crutches to get some good, light reading… can you tell? I came home with five books. Back at work on Monday, I got four more books in that I’d put on hold earlier. Then I had to go to yet a third library to get the book to read for book club on Thursday. This is me peeping out from my book fort…

book coverJack Jones and the Pirate Curse by Judith Rossell Jack Jones is an ordinary elementary school student. One day, out of the blue, a parrot named Poll flies up and starts telling Jack the craziest tales. He says that Jack is descended from Blackstrap Morgan the pirate. Now that his Uncle Mungo is dead, Jack is his closest living male relative – and that means that he’s next in line for the Pirate Curse. Very soon, random people around him start turning into the pirates that Blackstrap Morgan betrayed ten generations earlier and chasing him around. Being a knife-throwing target isn’t so fun, but seeing his previously strict and proper teacher start using pirate words and dancing jigs is. Poll wants him to fight, but Jack intends to use his brains to break the curse for good. This is a great next step up from the very short early chapter books for kids, full of jokes and fast action. For adults, the action is still amusing, and you’ll be able to recognize both historical and film pirates in those chasing Jack.
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Only three more days to Talk Like a Pirate Day!

book coverThe Republic of Pirates by Colin WoodardThe pirates of legend live free from the laws of kingdoms of the world. Theirs is a life of adventure as they travel where they will, taking what they need and making their victims walk the plank.

The legend is complete fiction, of course. But the fascinating part is that the Golden Age of Piracy followed the legend, brought about by frustrated pirates who thought it already reality. They created an early democracy where people of all colors and nationalities were equal members, though it was stamped out quickly. This is the story of the creation of the Republic of Pirates, the pirates who founded it and the former privateer who brought them down. The good news is that there is a lot in this book. Unfortunately, the facts are packed a little thick for all but the most die-hard of pirate fans. Happily, for those in between, there’s a lot to be had just in the intro.
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A while back, I mentioned that I was doing a pirate picture book bibliography. I’m feeling a little too lazy to post everything up here, but it’s here – Not Too Scary Pirate Books.

Pegleg TangoDid I say that Mr. FP would never stop listening to Snack Time? Ha ha! Well, he’s probably still listening to it in [ profile] amnachaidh’s car, but in my car, we are now listening to Peg Leg Tango by Captain Bogg and Salty I’m now hearing “I am a pirate in this world” and “There’s a pirate party shakin’ on the ship!” around the house. Their web sites all seem to be down, but there are a few copies of their two more recent albums (this one included) left on Amazon. This is pirate fun for all ages.

Kids, Parents and Power Struggles coverA little more about tantrums: The parenting book I last reviewed, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline was recommended by a friend, who heard about it in her Raising Your Spirited Child class. I’ve a couple friends now who took that class, and both have noted remarkable increase in harmony and cooperation since then. Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is on my reading list. Last week I heard from another friend with a four-year-old that reading just the first two chapters of her more recent book, Kids, Parents and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime took tantrums from ten to fourteen down to two a day. I’ll have to interloan it to get hold of it, but I didn’t want to deprive any of y’all that might be in need of such assistance until then. Also still on my parenting to-read list is How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, who also wrote Siblings without Rivalry, which I reviewed a while back.
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I'm working on a longer bibliography of pirate picture books for work. Here's a start.

book coverThe Pirate Meets the Queen by Matt Faulkner.

This exciting tale tells embroiders what is known of real-life Irish pirate Granny O’Malley (short for Granuaile or Grace). She cut off her hair and disguised herself as a boy to join her father’s ship in her youth. Later in life, in the title episode, she goes in person to petition Red Liz, the Queen of England, for her son’s freedom. It’s illustrated with flowing but realistic gouache paintings. This is a little long for me, at over 15 minutes reading aloud, though not for Mr. FP, who loved it. It's exciting without being scary.
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book coverPirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe A young but worldly-wise priest is writing his memoirs. It started when Chris was put in a monastery school in Cuba and decided he didn’t want to take orders. When he left the monastery, the Havana he knew was gone, replaced by a much smaller one. Without money, food or shelter, he found work on a pirate ship. He made friends with Cap’n Burt, but didn’t want to become a murderous pirate himself. So much for good intentions. After several more adventures, he finds himself captain of his own pirate ship, pursued (romantically) by the wily and courageous Novia. The straightforward prose suits the book well, telling the plain facts of real pirate life. The action is violent without being romanticized and the plot does several quite unexpected flips. And while Father Chris is writing his memoirs and working at the Teen Center, he’s plotting how he can get back in time to the wife he left behind. I hear Neil Gaiman’s calling it essential reading.
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Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson For those of you going through Harry Potter withdrawal, may I suggest Peter and the Starcatchers? This fast-moving adventure with a sense of humor takes us back to a time when Peter Pan was just Peter, an orphan with a dismal and probably short future. Peter, still the leader of a small gang of orphans, is being sent to a barbarian king on a faraway island, onboard a small and dingy ship. Also onboard is young Molly, apprentice Starcatcher. Apparently, when stars fall on earth, the starstuff causes magical mutations, often harmful, so that it must be removed from earth by the Starcatchers before it can cause too much damage. Sure enough, a large and leaky chest of starstuff features prominently in the plot, as does the evil Captain Stache and his pirate crew. The plot will keep you on the edge of your seat and the characters are charming and believable. The book, for me, restored the magic of Peter Pan that was missing when I reread the original, with its old-fashioned mores. The savages are real people; Molly's aim in life is not to become a mother ASAP. It's an origin story well worth reading.
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Jack Plank Tells Tales by Natalie Babbitt Long-time favorite Natalie Babbitt (Tuck Everlasting) returns with this delightful collection, sure to be a hit. Cutting the microphone, Jack Plank is a retired pirate, looking for a new career. Every day, he heads out with his landlady’s daughter to try to find a job. Every night, he returns unsuccessfully, but with a tale to tell of why that particular career could never work for him. He couldn’t possibly do work that involved crossing a bridge, for example, because of the experience that a shipmate had with something closely resembling a troll in Nova Scotia, and another shipmate had an experience that put him off wigs forever. Jack Plank does find a job in the end, of course, but by that time, all we want is more stories. The stories belong to that wonderful variety, which are entertaining for an adult without being too scary for the beginning chapter book reader.
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Sometimes when I see a good fantasy review, I put the book on hold for when it comes into the library. Sometimes this works out better than others…

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss I started this novel with some trepidation, as it is around 700 pages long. I sighed and fidgeted as he took 100 pages to set up the frame story. But they kept saying that this story was the stuff of legends, so I bravely read on anyway (with some breaks for knitting porn and new magazines.) I felt some amount of sympathy for the main character, Kvothe, a brilliant, socially inept but musically talented young thing, though his arrogance was a bit off-putting. Kinda like Harry Potter in Book 5, but without the getting to know him before he hit the testosterone of invincibility. It kept flashing back to the present, where Kvothe would promise again that there would be Romance and Doom any minute now. No romance. No doom. I read on, through the strange days of the week that were never explained and multitudes of different cultures sketchily described. The book ended, with promise of a couple more sequels to come. I am sure that there is an audience for this book. It is probably young and male and really loves books that are so epic that they can only fit two or three interesting episodes into 700 pages. Oh, wait, the plot: Kvothe’s family is slaughtered by the Chandrian, whom most people believe to be only a fairy tale. After some time on the streets, a still very young Kvothe enters the University to study magic and learn the truth of the Chandrian so he can avenge his family’s death. He quickly makes some powerful enemies, and meets the love of his life. However, since he is a Good Boy and she needs a gentleman of means to support her, they don’t do anything. In the frame story, Kvothe is in hiding running an inn in a remote village, and there are some signs that the Chandrian are looking for him.

Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby Sowerby spent 10 years researching Victorian knitting patterns – the first time knitting patterns were written down as they are today. This book traces the evolution of knitted lace, with brief articles about the major knitting sources followed by patterns adapted from the source. There’s also a nice guide to technique in the back, and a guide to the locations in the photos. The lace is absolutely gorgeous, and conveniently progresses from easier to more difficult patterns as the collective knitting skill of the Victorians increased. There are also smaller scarves and fichus as well as larger shawls and stoles. All the knitting is photographed in beautiful Victorian interiors and British formal gardens, including the manor that was used for Mr. Darcy’s estates in the A&E Pride and Prejudice. This is a beautiful and drool-worthy book.

Because I just can’t resist checking out new books about pirates…
Don’t Mention Pirates by Sarah McConnell Scarlet Silver may be the granddaughter of famous pirate Long Joan Silver. And she may live in a ship-shaped house. But she still has to conceal her talents for making people walk the plank and searching for treasure, because the only rule in the Silver family is, “Don’t mention pirates!” Then one day, she finds gold in her yard, and it looks like Scarlet might not be the only Silver with piratical leanings. This silly story with light-hearted watercolor and ink illustrations will delight the pirate lovers in your family.
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This book I picked off the teen librarian’s pirate display, because I needed to read a teen book and was feeling lazy about choosing one. It is a fine book, though!

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy by L.A. Meyer

On the Dark Day, the body collector took away Mary’s mother and sister just days after he’d taken her father. For a time, she finds a home on the streets with a gang of orphans, but she dreams of adventure and seeing the legendary Kangaroo. Finding a place as a ship’s boy could be the perfect way out. Only hopefully, it won’t be too bloody. Jack finds herself caught up in the middle of conflict on board ship – with good friends among the other ship’s boys, but hated by the midshipmen. Can she save her friends from the pirates, avoid starting a war on ship, and keep up The Deception? Jacky tells her story herself in language that brings the age of pirates to life, while she stays a real and ordinary girl caught up in extraordinary adventures. You won’t be able to put the book down.

This book was given to me by [ profile] justdave333. It’s a Book Crossings book, so I passed it on to [ profile] garrity when we saw her lately. It is an awfully fun concept, Book Crossings.

Carpe Demon: Confessions of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner Kate Connor was raised to be a demon hunter. She left the job after marrying her second husband (her first, Eric*, had been a demon hunter as well, but died of Causes Unknown). Now she’s got a teenage daughter, a two-year-old and a husband who don’t know anything about her past – and demons crashing through her kitchen window. It’s Buffy trying to keep up with carpools, find a place to stash the toddler, and host cocktail parties for her husband on top of the demon hunting. I never quite bought her not telling her husband about it, especially after she winds up telling her best friend. I have been spoiled by Buffy, which usually had resonances of deeper issues under the fun vampire-slaying. This story, which is really a perfectly fine adventure story, felt like it was trying to be Buffy but missed the point. It may not be Joss, but it’s a fun story, particularly for people like, well, me, a Buffy fan and a mother.

*Good names, don’cha think?

Spinners by Donna Jo Napoli and Richard Tchen I have loved Donna Jo Napoli, and in general, love retold fairy tales. This one is a retelling of Rumplestiltskin, and started off with a love of yarn, making it extra seductive for me. The retelling is good insofar as I really cared about all the characters and had a hard time putting it down. As told here, Rumplestiltskin is about greed and love gone wrong. But Saskia, our heroine, seems to be caught in the middle and never finds a way out. Her mother died at birth and the man she thinks is her father never really loved her – though we know from the beginning that Rumplestiltskin is actually her father. She’s making a fine living for herself spinning when her father decides to take her to the king. Everything goes downhill from there and comes to a screeching halt at the end of the story, without resolving (for me) any of the messy issues that got brought up.


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