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JEAN LAFFITE by Susan Goldman Rubin


The Pirate Who Saved America

by Susan Goldman Rubin & illustrated by Jeff Himmelman

Age Range: 8 - 11

Pub Date: April 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8109-9733-2
Publisher: Abrams

Who knew that some pirates in the old days were Jewish and fought on the side of the good guys? Mateys, meet Jean Laffite, a real pirate of the Caribbean.

Rubin’s slim book begins in what is now Haiti with Laffite’s early days as a descendant of Spanish Jews. She moves on to his “career” as a successful privateer and smuggler and then to his fighting alongside Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. Wise to the ways of the bayous and marshes, knowledge crucial to American defenses, Laffite also supplied Jackson with troops and ammunition. Amazingly, the fierce battle was over quickly and the British trounced. Thereafter, all was forgiven, as Lafitte and his pirates were proclaimed heroes and lauded for bravery and patriotism. Details about the rest of his life remain spotty in the historical record. While several of Laffite’s nefarious exploits are recounted here, they’re told in a matter-of-fact tone that doesn’t make them sound as exciting and dangerous as they had to have been. The paintings rendered in muted colors are fairly stiff, though some add atmosphere and rousing flavor. Lafitte is depicted as heavily buckled in the illustrations; too bad he doesn’t come across as more swashbuckling.

Still, this will suffice as an introduction for die-hard pirate fans and add an interesting, quirky footnote to American history. (author’s note, bibliography, index) (Picture book/biography. 8-11)