On the last Tuesday of the month I run a bookclub at my bookshop for grown ups who enjoy children’s literature. There is a mixture of writers, teachers, librarians and keen beans. Sometimes we do classics, sometimes we do brand new things, sometimes we do things that I love and think everyone should know about. Last night we did something from the latter category.
Jonny Duddle’s first pirate adventure, The Pirate Cruncher, came out in 2010. It is, hook on heart, my favourite of his pirate books.
A fiddler entices a pirate gang with tales of promised treasure, but the fiddler is not all that he seems. He tells them many times that they could turn back, that no other pirate has been successful on the same journey, but the Captain insists they keep going…. I’m not going to say what happens at the end. But it isn’t pretty.
After this came The Pirates Next Door in 2012
When the Jolley-Rogers family arrive in Dull-on-Sea they are met with suspicion and hostility from all but Matilda, a young girl who ignores the attitudes of her neighbours and befriends Jim Lad, the young pirate son. When they leave, they put buried treasure in everyone’s gardens and so the townsfolk decide that, really, they were ok. Matilda is left with a promise that Jim will write to her.
My kids both preferred this book because, according to them, while it’s funny that the pirates ‘get it’ at the end of The Pirate Cruncher, it is about pirate grown ups – and pirate boys only. The Pirates Next Door, however, has kids in it (and a dog). That makes it much better.
And of course, what is nice about it is that it’s really about how prejudice and how people should judge others on experience instead. So it’s a good starting point for discussion too.
Earlier this year I was beside myself with excitement when this showed up:
The Jolley-Rogers and the Ghostly Galleon is the next instalment of Matilda’s adventures with the Jolley-Rogers family – in a chapter book. How fantastic for readers who have enjoyed the picture books to be able to go onto read a chapter book, particularly one that has so many pictures and is of good quality. The story itself – a mystery concerning a ghost pirate shipand stolen treasure – is well-developed with plenty of action and told at a fast pace.
There are a few stories that have chapter books to compliment their original picture books – Winnie the Witch (Valerie Thomas and then Laura Owen), Dirty Bertie (by David Roberts and then Alan MacDonald), Princess Evie (by Sarah Kilbride). But because Jonny Duddle is both illustrator and author those dual skills are fully indulged and so The Ghostly Galleon is still essentially a picture book, but with a longer story.
For those children reluctant to let go of picture books (and why the heck should they? I still read them and I am nearly 38), or for struggling readers, this is a perfect choice.
I do still like the first one best though. Especially because the pirates ‘get it’ at the end.