Jack, Zack, and Caspar (King Jack and the Dragon, 2011) are back in an adventure by the seaside, complete with stormy waters…and pirates!
Bently’s rhyming narrative could be sung as a sea chantey. Pre-kindergarteners pink-cheeked Jack and brown-skinned Zack build “a galleon down by the sea” assisted by diaper-clad and towheaded Caspar, pacifier firmly clenched in his mouth. Their sand construction sports mast and boom, sand-bucket cannons, and a teddy-bear cabin boy. Oxenbury’s artwork, in a mix of full-bleed color illustrations and monochrome sketches, shows the boys hard at work on their ship. The blending of the real day at the seaside and the fanciful voyage on the high seas is beautifully done. Sun and warm sand give way to a steely gray ocean, with whitecaps and a pirate ship in the distance as the young buccaneers (“hungry for glory and enemy booty”) set out. The imaginary, scowling, sword-wielding grown-up pirates in the approaching square-rigger are comical yet ferocious enough to cause delighted shivers. The voyage ends as a brief cloudburst clears away the beachgoers, but the boys find plenty of fine booty, including ice-cream cones, offered by a pair of friendly pirates who look like Mum and Dad. The trek between the beach and the car documented on the endpapers sweetly bookends the excitement. A clear, large font and generous trim size invite the young audience in.
Gently and agreeably thrilling. (Picture book. 3-6)