Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



John Matthews
Nonfiction Novelty Book
For ages 9 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 2006   ISBN: 978-1416927341

Many of us are drawn to stories about pirates and their adventures. We love to watch Captain Jack Sparrow delivering his witty repartee, and imagine how exciting it would be to be a pirate. We forget that the true nature of piracy is not as golden and glamorous as it is presented in novels and movies. In reality, pirates were “cruel, greedy, often barbarous men and women” who often died young because their life of thievery was a very dangerous one.

When most of us think about pirates we think of Blackbeard, Calico Jack, Henry Morgan and other pirates who sailed the world’s oceans during the “golden age of piracy.” However, piracy is a very ancient practice that goes back to the seventh century BC in the Mediterranean. Though many great leaders such as Alexander the Great and Pompey tried to rid the region of pirates, none of them were successful. In fact, piracy became a growing problem. Viking pirates raided the shores of Britain, and the infamous Eustace the Black Monk made the English Channel unsafe for shipping for several years. Piracy is still a problem in parts of world, though pirates now use fast moving power boats and modern weapons.

Though pirates of the past were not as glamorous as we like to imagine they were, they were nevertheless a very interesting group of people. They had their own slang, rules that they lived by, flags they sailed under, and hierarchy. Though most of the more famous pirates were men, there were a few women who were attracted to the freedom and danger that a life of piracy offered.

Though pirates are famous for their attacks on ships, they were not averse to attacking prime locations on land. Ports that were “wealthy” were often targeted. Some pirates, including Henry Morgan, specialized in “attacking land-based sites,” and he was very good at it.

This excellent title will delight readers who have an interest in pirate history and lore. Every double page spread focuses on one aspect of pirate life. Readers will find out about pirate attacks, pirate treasure, life on board pirate vessels, the capture of pirates, and much more. Every topic is beautifully presented with interesting pieces text, annotated illustrations and photos, and multimedia features such as mini books, flaps to lift, and envelopes to open.