Mutinous manners and piratical politeness are the name of the game in this swashbuckling story.
It might surprise readers to hear that pirates are the positive pinnacle of politeness, but it’s true! Twelve mannerly qualities are listed, with these mostly white pirates making the grade. As the book says from the start, “Pirates are unruly and pirates love to fight, / but pirates still say ‘please’ and ‘thanks’ ’cause pirates are polite.” And here’s the captain merrily handing over a crewmate’s molar after a scuffle. Other guidelines are checked off the list as well, including chewing with one’s mouth shut (particularly if it’s someone else’s food), always saying “thank you” (even when stealing booty), and using one’s inside voice (in the hold). Catrow lends his considerable talents to the tale, yet the result is strangely disjointed, leaving readers unsure if the book is serious or sarcastic. For example, readers are told not to barge into private situations, so the pirates leave the captain alone during his bubble bath, which seems literal enough. Yet earlier in the book, the verse on sharing is depicted with a lone pirate marooned with only a single coin from the latest haul—that’s sharing? Mind you, not all young pirate lovers will note these discrepancies. If it’s grotesque pirate misadventures they seek, this book delivers in spades.
As a manners book, hide your doubloons. But as a pirate book, it’s yo-ho-ho and away you go! (Picture book. 3-6)