(A) Ages 0-4, (B) Ages 4-8, Book Reviews, Picture Books
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Captain Jack and the Pirates by Peter Bentley and Helen Oxenbury

Captain Jack and the Pirates by Peter Bentley and Helen Oxenbury. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016. 32 pages.

  • Reading Level: Picture books, ages 4-8
  • Maturity Level: Ages 0-8

Bottom Line: Jack, Zack, and Caspar imaginatively set sail in their pirate ship (made of sand) in this old-fashioned feeling picture book.

Jack, Zack, and Caspar, brave mariners three,

were building a galleon down by the sea.

So begins this rhyming story of three young boys hard at work building their pirate ship out of sand. A shirt functions as a sail, buckets work as cannons, and a teddy bear is along for the ride. The trio meets pirates! suffers stormy weather! man overboard! abandons ship! As they explore the island on which they’ve been marooned, they discover the pirates’ lair complete with booty: cupcakes and juice. The pirates (who, of course, are their parents) are the friendly sort who also offer the boys some ice cream after scrubbing them down and helping them into dry clothes.

The text rarely alludes to the young children, their make-believe supplies, or the fact that the pirates are invented by these young minds. Rather, the illustrations fill in the gaps, fleshing out the story. The illustrations have the same old-fashioned feel readers have come to expect from Oxenbury (such as those in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt), but are nicely diverse and up to date nonetheless. This ensures that, while the text is full of swashbuckling terms like “buccaneers,” the storyline feels cozy and warm, perfect for bedtime reading after a long day playing in the ocean and building sand castles. Even though the parents are the enemy pirates, there are no hard feelings, and a strong family-centered theme ends the book.

Cautions: none

Overall Rating: 4

  • Worldview Rating: 4
  • Artistic Rating: 4

Categories: Picture Books, Boys

For another pirate picture book that is very similar in theme, but much more “rambunctious” in feel, check out The Pirate Jamboree.

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