July 21, 2014


Pirate's Passage
by William Gilkerson

Twelve-year-old Jim and his mother run a small Nova Scotian inn that may go out of business. Into their lives comes Captain Charles Johnson, whose yacht blows into port during a storm. A mysterious, eccentric figure, the captain helps Jim fend off bullies while regaling him with true tales of piracy on the high seas. The captain's stories are made even more captivating by his ability to pull Jim - and by extension, the reader - right into the action. 

The captain gets a bit didactic at times so some of the pages may be slow going. However, the narrative always perks up when he starts talking about shipboard life, sea battles, and pirate law and justice. The graphic details will keep kids enthralled, though those with overactive imaginations shouldn't read the book at night.

Very entertaining.

A Thousand Years of Pirates
by William Gilkerson

For kids who may be put off by the length of Pirate's Passage (362 pages), give them this handsome book (96 pages, including index). Readers will meet early Viking and European pirates, plus the more notorious ones such as Captain Kidd, Woodes Rogers, John Paul Jones, and Grace O'Malley.

The text itself is very matter-of-fact and not terribly exciting, but Gilkerson's finely drawn paintings make up for it. His book will also have readers questioning their views about world explorers who, when you think about it, were actually pirates. They went around looting, plundering and amassing riches at the expense of native peoples everywhere. That they did so in the name of kings and queens is no excuse.

A good summary of pirate history.

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