Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Lilly and the Pirates

Lilly and the Pirates

Phyllis Root
Illustrator:  Rob Shepperson 
For ages 8 to 11
Boyds Mills Press, 2010   ISBN: 978-1590785836

For as long as she can remember Lilly has travelled around the world with her parents, who are scientists. She has never lived in a home or gone to school, but she loves her life. The only thing that makes life difficult for Lilly is that she, unlike her intrepid parents, is not a courageous individual. Quite the quantrary. Lilly worries about everything, and she spends much of her life writing about her worries in a series of books. Her hope is that if she writes her worries down, “the bad things she worried about might not happen.” If she writes down how frightened she is of losing her parents to a dire illness, or a rogue wave, then perhaps they will not get sick or drown.

Then one day Lilly’s parents are invited to go to the Shipwreck Islands to study the frangipani fruit fly, and there is no way Lilly will be able to handle the journey. Though Lilly’s parents don’t know about her worry books, they do know that she is terrified of water, and they recognize that travelling across the ocean for days will just be too much for their ten-year-old daughter. They suggest that it would be best if Lilly stays with Uncle Earnest while they are studying the elusive fruit fly.

Reluctantly Lilly goes to stay with her great-uncle, a gray man who works in a library and who is incredibly ill suited to taking care of a girl. Lilly does her best to get through the days by reading books, writing in her worry books, and waiting for messages from her parents that she gets via sea gull delivery.

Then a strange person moves in next door and Lilly meets her first bona fide pirate. Mrs. Teagarden does her best to disguise her true nature, but it doesn’t take a genius to see what she is. After she makes Lilly become a pirate by taking the pirate’s oath, Mrs. Teagarden tells Lilly about a famous pirate called William Barnacle who disappeared in the Shipwreck Islands. Apparently, William Barnacle had a treasure in his possession when he disappeared; a treasure that many people would like to get their hands on.

Having to become a pirate is bad enough for Lilly, but then she gets a message from her parents via sea gull in which her parents say that their ship is sinking. Lilly has no choice but to travel to the Shipwreck Islands to try to find her missing mother and father.

Daring to do the things that truly terrify one is not easy, and yet this is just what Lilly does in this story. She faces her fears head on, and she discovers something about herself that is altogether surprising.

In this delightful story, we meet a colorful cast of characters who are often funny, and delightfully likeable. With sensitivity and humor Phyllis Root takes her main character on a life altering journey that will resonate with readers of all kinds.