Perhaps I should have saved this for Talk like a Pirate day, but this week we’ve been having swashbuckling adventures, prompted in some part by a little too much Jake and the Neverland Pirates at some unearthly hour on Sunday which Kitty insisted was morning, while I dozed under a quilt on the sofa with Sophie Giraffe squeaking somewhere around my knees, and a lot by this lovely read; The Pirates Next Door.
I think I could have chosen this for the cover illustration alone, but that’s just a taster of what’s inside. I grew up near a little seaside town, so Dull on Sea, “too busy in the summer…and in winter it shut down…”, sounded remarkably familiar, although I’m sorry to say that we were never turned on our heads by pirates in quite the same way – I’m holding the very visible Navy presence responsible for putting them off.
Dull on Sea, without the benefits of a Naval College on the hill, is much more susceptible to benign pirate invasion. But of course the residents aren’t quite so keen on the new arrivals, save for little Matilda, who is just thrilled to find a pirate-boy next door.
As with all good swashbuckling tales the pirates aren’t quite what they seem and despite everyone trying to get rid of them, they leave with the upper hand.
I love picture books where the pictures are an integral part of the story, not just a pretty accompaniment, and Jonny Duddle has hidden so many plot twists and little jokes in the illustrations that in focussing on the words I missed a few for the first couple of reads; the skull and crossbones that crop up everywhere, including the corn flakes packet, and that town clerk accepting the petition to get rid of the pirates who looks remarkably familiar, to name but a couple.
The words are worthy of the attention mind, lovely rhythmic rhymes, and lots of different voices. Sat up in landlocked Warwickshire, I don’t need asking twice to roll out a good incomprehensibly Devonian pirate accent, if only to make sure that Kitty and Elma can understand family patois both north and south.
It’s one of Kitty’s favourites, and Elma seems to be joining the fan club, although I think at least part of that joy must be assigned to the fun of wearing pirate hats (I knew Cath Kidston hankies would come in handy), playing ships with the laundry baskets,
and drawing our very own treasure maps.
I should note that if you’re looking for treasure, Elma’s map is, shall we say, a little sparse on the details, so good luck identifying your whereabouts based on three green dots, a yellow smudge, and five red dashes. The treasure is below an inlet on a line running second red dash to third green dot.
Kitty’s map is much more detailed, but as well as the more traditional palm trees, volcano and fish, those details also include Grandad and Daddy holding stripy umbrellas in the rain, which I suspect means her treasure is buried in an allotment in Yorkshire where we huddled the extended family under golf umbrellas against a torrential downpour on our last trip north. The treasure is also likely to be a handful of moshi monsters and one of my orange gym weights.
So I think I’d pass on the treasure, and having a read instead, although with one caveat. Because however funny and detailed the illustrations, however much sparkle and mischief is drawn into little urchin Nugget, and even however many times we giggle out loud, one thing is indisputable:
I have the cutest pirate!
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