Demas’ latest throws together adult pirates and regular kids at school, but the combination doesn't really mesh, making it unsuccessful either at familiarizing kids with school or providing swashbuckling entertainment.
Readers follow the antics of a crew of pirates through a typical elementary school day. They hang their swords in the coatroom, make clay cannonballs in art class, share treasure maps at show-and-tell time, have squid for lunch, snore through nap time, get scolded for swearing at recess and clean up at the end of the day. “Pirates learn their letters: / X (marks the spot), Y, Z. / Pirates learn arithmetic: / Two skulls plus one is three.” While Demas’ rhymes mostly rollick, a few miss the beat, and the parrots’ habit of repeating everything after the pirates gets a little old. Manders’ watercolor, gouache and colored pencil artwork is delightfully silly, full of details that maximize the incongruity of the contrast between pirates and kindergartners. But he ultimately fails to bring the pirates and kids together, creating a separation that dooms the book—the kids are merely uncertain and insecure onlookers to the pirates’ activities.
Don’t be hornswoggled—give this the heave-ho and seek pirate (and school) booty elsewhere. (Picture book. 4-7)