Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter

Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter

Richard Platt
Illustrator:   Chris Riddell 
Historical Fiction
For ages 8 and up
Candlewick Press, 2001   ISBN: 978-0763608484

Jake is very excited because he is finally going to be leaving his quiet "landsman’s" life. The son of a doctor Jake is eager to see the world and to share the experiences that his uncle Will has told him about over the years. Uncle Will is a sailor and has arranged for Jake to have a place on his ship, the Sally Anne. Unfortunately when Will and Jake arrive in Charleston the Sally Anne has already sailed. Luckily though another ship the Greyhound is seeking hands and Jake and Will sign on.

They soon find out that all is not well on the Greyhound. For one thing the ship is transporting smuggled goods or "contraband." What is much more worrying is the fact that the captain is a brutal and ruthless man. When Jake looses a bucket overboard he is threatened with flogging. Uncle Will demands to take Jake’s place and is beaten terribly. Then, for being insolent enough to suggest taking Jake’s punishment, Will is set adrift in a small boat. A very distressed Jake wonders if he is ever going to see his uncle alive again.

Now Jake must manage on his own, and this he does, even when the ship is taken over by pirates. The boy discovers that he has skills and strengths of his own that he can call upon in times of trouble.

Through Jake the author very successfully not only tells us a wonderfully entertaining story, but he also shows us what it must have been like to be a boy working on a ship in the time of "our good King George." We are able to appreciate that the seafaring life was a brutal, dangerous and usually very uncomfortable one. We also discover that there was a lot more to being a pirate than one might think. Pirates had a code of conduct of their own, rules that they lived by, and it is not hard to see why so many men decided to take up pirating as a way of life.

At the end of the story the author provides additional information about "Jake’s World," a history of piracy, and finally a fascinating ‘rogues gallery’ of some of the most famous, or infamous, pirates.

Chris Riddell not only brings the characters in the story to life with his caricature style artwork, but he also provides the reader with a wealth of information. There are cross-section pictures to explore as well as maps and explanatory illustrations which show the reader what life at sea must have been like in 1716.