Princess Scallywag and the Queen are out on the royal yacht enjoying the fresh air when they are invaded by three stinky, sweaty, no-good pirates waving their swords and determined to take them prisoner.
But three stinky, sweaty, no-good pirates are no match for the quick-thinking Queen and the persnickety princess, although it is touch-and-go for a while as they desperately try to save themselves from being made galley slaves, scrubbing the decks and walking the plank!
Recently there was a national furore because a 9-year-old girl considered the words of our national anthem, concluded they were disrespectful to the indigenous community and refused to stand for the song in a school assembly. Adults were outraged, claimed that this had to be the parents’ doing and recommended family counselling, suspension from school, and even a “kick up the pants” – bullying in a way that in the next breath they condemn. And yet we as teachers are striving to have students form opinions, express and justify them and the book reviewers I most admire – Megan Daley, Sue Warren, Margot Lindgren and Tania McCartney to name just a few – identify, celebrate and recommend those books we discover that have feisty, independent, thinking female characters that our readers can relate to.
So what then, would these conservative self-styled social commentators and political leaders make of Princess Swashbuckle? For this froggy princess (designed perhaps as a sideswipe at the saying about having to kiss lots of frogs to find a prince) has dreams to “one day rule the waves as a froggy pirate queen”, much to her parents’ dismay as they see her married to a handsome prince and leading a more conventional, traditional life. Disgusted by this thought, Princess Swashbuckle understands that she is so much more than her parents’ ideas, so she packs her bags and stows away on a pirate ship. Assuming leadership of the Stinky Fish abandoned by its captain, she tells the crew that they are “going on a mission to find NICE things to do.” News of her good deeds spreads far and wide but even swashbuckling princesses can get homesick…
Told in rollicking rhyme and rhythm and beautifully illustrated, this is a story to inspire young girls and boys to know themselves and follow their dreams to find their own version of happy. If that means bucking the conservative, conventional norm, then so be it. Being the change you want to see can be difficult. In the wake of the publicity given to Harper Nielsen’s protest, including a dedicated Twitter tag #sitwithharper, social media was flooded with alternative, more inclusive versions of the anthem including this one from Judith Durham.
Just as Harper started a conversation that might change thinking and Princess Swashbuckle changed Frogland forever, we need more of both of them – if only to inspire our girls and to show the right-wing,status-quo, stick-in-the-mud thinkers that young people do have thoughts and opinions and as future leaders, they need to be encouraged to express them, act on them and be acknowledged for their courage to do so.
Over a century ago James Barrie wrote a story about a boy who could fly and who never grew up; who had adventures on an island called Neverland and introduced us to characters like Wendy, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook and the croc with the clock!
Since then it has become a classic, republished many times, made into a stage play and movies and now it has been reworked into an abridged version superbly illustrated by Robert Ingpen so that another generation can delight in it.
With its modern language and stunning pictures, new life is breathed into Barrie’s words making it the perfect bedtime read-aloud story to introduce young children to the original tale, or to be read alone by the newly independent reader, and is a must for both the library’s collection and the Santa Sack. Given her grandfather is named Barrie after this author because of the impact of the story on his parents, I know just whose tree this will be under.
Rock-a-bye pirate, in the crow’s nest Mummy says bedtime, and Mummy knows best. You’ve had your adventures, you’ve sailed the high seas, So under the covers and go to sleep, please.
During the day, this little pirate has all sorts of pirate adventures doing all the things pirates do. But the life of a pirate isn’t all swashbuckling, treasure-seeking and making enemies walk the plank – come nighttime they have to have their dinner, have a bath, wash their hair, get in the PJs and snuggle into bed to listen to a bedtime story. And this smart mummy knows this, turning her boy’s bedtime routine into a pirate-centred lullaby to settle him down and lull him to sleep.
Author of other preschool-friendly stories such as All Aboard the Dinosaur Express, Knapman describes himself as a children’s writer, lyricist and playwright and his way with words, their rhyme and rhythm certainly shines through in this latest offering. Sublimely illustrated so that even the wickedest pirates who ever set sail – Black-Bearded Brewster, Sea Dog McPhail, Cross-Eyed Delaney and Freddy the Fright – become just regular people who go home to their magnificent purpled-hair mum, there is everything that is familiar about pirates in this book as well as things that are not so it is scaled back to become a gentle bedtime story for even the toughest, most adventurous daytime seafarer.
Despite it being centuries since pirates ruled the seas of the Caribbean, they still hold a fascination for young readers, many of whom see themselves in the role of the swashbuckling buccaneer. So in this rollicking story-in-rhyme, author Mark Sperring has created a job description for prospective applicants which illustrator Ed Eaves has interpreted in the boldest, brightest colours populated with regular girls and boys that young readers will recognise.
All the well-known tasks of pulling up the anchor, climbing the rigging, peering from the crow’s nest for land, digging deep holes for burying and retrieving treasure, waiting on the fat, demanding Captain McGrew deliberately suggesting that this might not be the romantic life stories have portrayed in other books, particularly as this time the ‘heroes’ are the crew not the captain. Having to sploosh the deck, batten the hatches and fire the cannons while all around a fierce storm rages might dampen enthusiasm, but if it doesn’t then there is always the thought of octopus stew, endless dishwashing and even walking the plank to discourage the most hardy. If the constant tiredness and navigating through the night are the deal-breakers then there is always Norman the Knight…
Every stereotypical aspect of life on the high seas is addressed in this engaging tale which will feed the imagination and perhaps inspire the life-plan of our young readers for the long-term, but in the short-term they will enjoy its rhyme and rhythm, its vibrancy and action and learn that stories can take them anywhere they want to go. And just what might a job description for a knave look like? Maybe it might be better to stay a kid for a while.
The Blossburn family are engaged in their usual activities – parents engrossed in a television program while J.J. is playing with toys on the mat. No one is taking any notice of the books on the shelves, least of all the one that is slowly swelling as it demands to be read. Only when it swells so much that it falls over and the letters start to spill out with the drip-drips becoming plop-plops does J.J. notice and try to stem the flood. In fact it is not until the plop-plops become a splish-splash and the living room starts to look like an aquarium as all sorts of sea creatures invade it and swamp their recliner chairs that Mr and Mrs even start to notice that something might be amiss. But their attention is grabbed when pirates sail through and challenge them that the fun really begins.
Young children will love this concept as they willingly suspend their reality and let their imaginations take over. Canberra-based author Devon Sillet was awarded the Australian Postgraduate Award for her research into speculative fiction for young adults and it seems that this is a great example of the “what-if’ story starter. What if your favourite story came to life right there in your living room? Can you imagine the responses the children could draw, just as Anil Tortop has done with Sillet’s words in such a colourful, fun way? Let them tell you about as book they have bought or borrowed that they just couldn’t wait to read and what it would be like if it came true right there in their home. A great way to start their writing careers.
Or even if they all started with the same story – an intriguing way to introduce the concept that even with the same information we all perceive and interpret things differently because of our previous experiences and understandings. Similarly, they might like to turn the story around and talk about how 17th century pirates would feel in a 21st century home.
The final page is very satisfying as the Blossburns have all discovered the magic of words and the adventures they can take them on – what will they have happen in their living room next? What adventure would the children like to have?
Lift-the-flap books have been a very popular format for books for the very littlies for decades simple because they work so well at engaging them through their physical interactivity. These two new publications in this series featuring topics that young children love (others are Dinosaurs and Fairy) continue this tradition of building anticipation by having to find what’s hidden. With each page containing a number of flaps to lift and the text posed as a question they can also start the child on the road to making predictions about what will be discovered and thus encouraging them to take risks in a safe environment. Using the clues in the bright illustrations and asking them what they think might be under the flap, they discover the fun of being right but also learn to cope if their prediction is not spot on. All are big-picture concepts that will help develop an understanding of and a delight in print and story.
Perfect for starting our earliest readers on their new adventures, perhaps even for those a little older who are learning English as another language and needing to build schemata about topics popular with their classmates.
The pirate ship Hogwash is home to the Piganeers, led by Captain Porker. After several successful raids on Spanish galleons, Captain Porker orders his crew to weigh anchor off a little tropical island, a regular stop on the voyage home because his treasure is buried there – but his treasure map is missing. How will he find his loot without it? Luckily for his crew, who were at risk of being turned into bacon burgers, he finds it … but not where he usually hides it. Could someone have found it and worked out its secret? Midnight sees him setting out alone, rowing to the island, but after a night of digging, daylight dawns and his fears are confirmed. His treasure is not there. But who is responsible for stealing it? Younger children will enjoy joining Captain Porker on his hunt to find the culprits with its quirky twists and turns.
Pirates are a perennial favourite with young students and this rollicking adventure adds to the plethora of stories with this theme that have lasting appeal. Michael Salmon’s style is eye-catching, engaging and easily recognisable as this is the latest in a long string of books and other child-centred ventures which began in 1967. His cartoon style with his bright colours captures the eye and the imagination, and this book, a re-release of one published in the USA in 1998, is sure to attract a new generation of fans.
My experience has been that whenever I lead young boys, particularly, to the Michael Salmon section, that they are hooked and the word spreads very quickly. Perfect for reading aloud or reading alone by those on the cusp of independence, and coupled with his interactive website Salmon has a formula that is a winner. So much so, that the ACT Government commissioned a statue of Alexander Bunyip (of The Bunyip that ate Canberra fame) to stand outside their new Gungahlin Library in 2011 This title deserves its place in your Salmon collection.