Monday, September 19, 2011

P is for Pirates: Geekery in Picture Books

Best Pirate Children's Books for Storytime

Every self-respecting Geek knows that International Talk Like a Pirate Day is on September 19th, and even though my pirate accent is absolutely terrible (it turns Southern about midway through, kids don't seem to notice) this week's entries are going to be about Pirates!  First up, my favorite storytime, read-aloud Pirate books.

Now, the Pirate craze is probably on its way out if not over.  I think its rise can be attributed to "Pirates of the Caribbean" and its fall can be attributed to the sequels being absolutely terrible.  The thing about Pirates, however, is that they never really go away.  Pirate Halloween costumes have always been a staple for kids and adults and not just because of Johnny Depp.  My main exposure to pirates growing up stemmed from Peter Pan, more specifically the movie "Hook," which I think I watched 11 million times as a child, even though parts scared the heck out of me.

What is it about kids and Pirates?  There were, and still are, awful human beings who stole, murdered, and pillaged their way through life.  Perhaps we still can't shake that romantic image of sea-fairing life we still might have.  Maybe its the swashbuckling image we've gotten from movies going back as far as Error Flynn.  It could just be the funny hats.  Whatever it is, I like pirates, you probably like pirates, and kids love pirates.

Pirate picture books aren't hard to find, the only tricky thing is finding ones that don't make your preschooler glaze over with boredom because they're too long.  Here are my top pics for a Pirate Storytime.

Small Saul by Ashley Spires

Small Saul wants to live the life of sea-fairing adventure but he's short on size and big on being considerate.  Can he find a way to fit in with his rough and tumble crew?  Great "it's okay to be different story" with a pirate theme.

Roger the Jolly Pirate by Brett Helquist

Very similar story to Small Saul, about a guy who is just too darn Jolly to be a proper pirate.  I love this book because it has the awesome illustrations of Brett Helquist, whom I fell in love with from his work on Lemony Snicket and still adore.  It's a bit long, but I love that there's a song at the end that sums up the story that goes to the tune of "What do you do with a drunken sailor?"  It promotes narrative skills, because you can use it to ask the kids what happened in the book before each verse.  The song is catchy and you can have kids "get their wiggles out" by standing up for the chorus "Way, hey, up she rises."

Pirate Pete's Talk Like a Pirate by Kim Kennedy; Illustrated by Doug Kennedy

The ridiculousness of me, with my terrible Pirate accent, attempting this book, is not lost on me.  However, I still really love the book for the repetition, and it's just plain funny.  Though it's long for a Preschool storytime, the repetition, changing voices, and a parrot impression will make this story a knock out.

Henry and the Pirate Chickens by Carolyn Crimi; Illustrated by John Manders

Carolyn Crimi is fast becoming one of my favorite children's authors.  This book has what I like to call, "Book propaganda," in which the problem is solved with the power of books.  In libraries, schools, and children's lit, "book propaganda" is a pretty oft-used weapon in the arsenal, which I frankly have mixed feelings about (but that is for another blog).  This book had the added benefit, however, of being about Rabbit and Chicken Pirates.  Really, what more could one want?  Also, in Last Starfighter/Independence Day/The Librarian fashion, they are saved by the nerd/bookworm, which is also appreciated.

Honorable Mentions: Peg Leg Peke by Brie Spangler; Pirate vs. Pirate: The Terrific Tale of a Big, Blustery Maritime Match by Mary Quattlebaum, Ill. by Alexandra Boiger
Any other Pirate book favorites that should have gone on the List?

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