Friday, November 4, 2011

Poetry Friday - A review of Pirates

Like many other people, I loved pretending to be a pirate when I was a kid. My best friend and I made treasure maps, we wore eye patches, and he regularly got seasick during the storms that we encountered as we were sailing across the world's oceans. For us, the piratical life was full of adventure and glamour.

I now know more about what pirates were really like. Much as I would like to see pirates through Jack Sparrow tinted glasses, I know that pirates were, for the most part, a savage lot. They were thieves who did whatever was required to get their prize.

The poems in today's book of poetry are unique because they do not glamorize pirates. Instead they tell the real story of what it was like to live outside the law, sailing in a stolen ship, and trying to stay alive.

David L. Harrison
Illustrated by Dan Burr
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 9 to 12
Boyds Mills Press, 2008, 978-1-59078-455-6
   Many of like to imagine that pirates were dashing fellows who charmed ladies, and robbed the rich without harming anyone. We like to think that they were basically “heroes” who were worthy of admiration and respect.
   The truth is a lot less glamorous. In actual fact, pirates were a dangerous lot who cared only about themselves, and who would happily rob anyone they encountered so that they could line their own pockets. They very violent and often died violently. They were men (and women) who lived outside of the law.
   In this collection of poems, David L. Harrison gives us a very realistic picture of what pirates were really like. He begins by describing a “Pirates Nest,” a place where men neither gave nor expected “mercy.” This was the place where the down and out and criminals gathered, and where pirates would go to sign on a crew.
   Not surprisingly, pirates looking for new crewmembers were not picky. In fact, they were quite happy to take on people who had “snatched a purse or two,” or a person who was “rotten through and through.” Once the new crewmembers were found, they had to listen to and sign on to the “Ship’s Rules.” They were told that they would be flogged for stealing, and shot for mutinying.
   Once they are at sea, the pirate crew would have to contend with days of boredom when all they could do was to “sit another day” for “another day without pay.” They would have to eat food that most people would consider inedible, and then, when a prize was sighted, risk their lives for whatever the prize might be carrying in its hold.
   In this fascinating and beautifully written collection of poetry, David L. Harrison gives his readers a very true to life picture of pirate life. Readers will get a sense of what it was really like to be a pirate, and they will come to appreciate that the life of a pirate was not an easy one.
   At the back of the book the author provides us with further information about real pirates, debunking myths, and helping us to better understand pirates and their ways.

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