A pup’s search for bravery takes him—unwillingly—to the high seas.
Stories of pirates are thrilling yarns that appeal considerably to lily-livered John-Wolf. A milquetoast little pup who feels bravest when he sings of pirate glory, his best hopes and worst fears are realized when a crew of salty sea dogs steals him from his bed, insisting that he compose lyrics in praise of their leader, Capt. Drake. But watching the crew fight its enemies renders him frightened and mute. It’s only after the pirates have stopped paying attention to him that he finds his singing voice, jeering at the crew in rhyme—which, unexpectedly, wins him the respect of the captain and crew, and now he jeers in rhyme everywhere he goes. John-Wolf’s sudden change in temperament comes without explanation. Is he now brave because he had the guts to insult the pirates to their faces or because they befriended him? The story was originally published in Dutch, and perhaps some of the awkwardness of the text can be traced to a weak translation. While the descriptions can be amusing (intermittently John-Wolf feels as weak as “a lump of toothpaste,” “a lump of lukewarm butter,” and “a custard bun with strawberries”), the songs often fail to rhyme, scan, or (occasionally) even make sense. Serviceable art fails to correct for the story’s weaknesses.
Lukewarm pirating in a field of hearty buccaneers makes this book cannon fodder, nothing more. (Picture book. 4-7)