Many young readers go through phases when they read every book that they can find that explores a topic that interests them. Dinosaurs are one of the topics that kids get passionate about, and pirates are another. Not long ago I was working with a little boy in a reading program and we read nothing but pirate books for three months! He eventually moved on to books about dogs, but he would have loved today's poetry title.
Shiver me Timbers!
Shiver me Timbers!
Illustrated by Robert Neubecker
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Simon and Schuster, 2012, 978-1-4424-1321-4
In real life pirates were (and still are) rather dangerous and certainly frightening people, but we don’t tend to think about that much. No, we think about the ‘cool’ pirate stuff, like eye patches, pet parrots, pirate slang, treasure hunts, sword fights, and robbing ships at sea.
In this splendidly piratical poetry picture book, we get the opportunity to celebrate the things that attract children and adults alike to pirates and pirate stories. We begin with a poem called Pirates wear Patches, which is about pirate accessories and pirate attitudes, and what a great place to start it is. After all, anyone who dresses up as a pirate makes sure he or she has an eye patch. It is one of those piratish things that we all know about. As we read the poem we find out that there other items of clothing and accessories that pirates would not be seen dead without; things such as white shirts with “big puffy sleeves,” tricorn hats, “scraggly” beards, and hooks. Once you have these things all you have to do to be the perfect pirate is to give “dirty looks,” “wear smirks” and “evil grins,” and be ready to “shoot first / And ask questions later.”
Of course, you also have to make sure that you know your “Pirate Patter.” Thankfully the second poem in this book covers this topic so that you know how to talk like a pirate. You will learn that you have to greet people by saying “Ahoy, matey,” and that “grog” is what pirates drink. If you want to insult someone you can call him a “scurvy dog.” It is also important that you know pirate terms so that you can stay out of trouble when you are around pirates. For example, if a pirate threatens to send you to “Davy Jones’s locker,” you should get out of town.
You may not know this but pirates lived by the code of conduct when they were at sea, a code which were surprisingly fair and democratic. The code of conduct that you will find in this book is quite different. It is delightfully silly and children may even try to force their parents to adopt it. The code includes things like “Don’t take a bath,” “Tell lots of lies,” “Act rash and rude,” and “Yell, “Thar she blows!””
Other things that you will learn about as you read these poems are (among other things) pirate names, how pirates were hired, what they ate, and pirate flags.
In this poetry book Douglas Florian’s delightfully funny poems are paired with often amusing illustrations to give readers a light-hearted piratical experience that will no doubt cause young readers to decide that the pirate life is, for certainly, for them.