Even if the meek don’t end up inheriting the Earth, sometimes they can bag a pirate ship.
This New Zealand import features some rowdy pirate invective—“Speak up, ye bletherin’ blighter!” “I can’t hear ye, ye scurvy bilge rat!”—but ultimately runs aground. Too soft-voiced to bellow out a sea chanty or even manage a respectable “ARRR” (the best he can manage is “Aaah”), bookish cabin boy Barnaby is loudly mocked by the ragged mateys of the Black Thunder. But when his tormentors’ loud partying over a “tremendous loot of treasure” fetches an irritated sea monster that eats them up, Barnaby triumphantly takes command of ship and gold alike. Better yet, absent the constant bullying, he miraculously acquires the vocal volume to be “the loudest, proudest pirate of them all.” Thatcher outfits her grimacing knaves (all but one white) in properly piratical garb (as well as stereotypical accessories such as hook, eye patch, and peg leg) and engineers the monster’s sudden advent with the turn of a half-sized page. But the monster isn’t very scary-looking, and despite large “GOBBLE GOBBLE” sound effects, there is no pirateophagy to be seen. Moreover, for all that Barnaby is presented as a character who prefers “to watch and listen and think,” he comes off as rather callous as he looks on, smiling, from behind a mast as his erstwhile crewmates are dragged overboard.
Beleaguered introverts may give a hearty cheer, but neither the art nor the writing is particularly seaworthy. (Picture book. 6-8)