(2018 CBCA Notable)
By Michelle Worthington and Katrin Dreiling
When ‘The World’s Worst Pirate’ bobbed above my horizon, I eyed it and thought what could possibly be different about this pirate book? It’s a gregarious fun-loving picture book. It’ll toss you about, like young Will, with the rise and fall of the seafaring ship. The front cover’s lopsided title and illustrations give a hint Will’s life is not straightforward. The cover shows a young boy flying, at right angles, from the main mast confirming he’s probably not pirate material.
It’s a narrative about being accepted for who you are, free from others’ expectations. It’s about finding your place in your community. Themes of belonging and being different follow young Will into his Mother’s pirate world. It’s a test of courage. Like Will, it’ll push you this way and pull you that. However, after confronting the giant Kraken, while the real pirates are nowhere to be seen, is when he gains respect for his lifesaving cooking skills.
The co-authors* have had fun with Will’s adventures, while offering numerous learning opportunities. The author’s use of alliteration will have kids laughing at creating their own eg., ‘…. Marooned Macaroons and Pirate Pizzas’. And baking, like Chef Will, can extend to bonding time with parents or grandparents and the like. Other discussions include, finding solutions to problems, predicting what else Will can do, could do and could’ve done. Kids love having their ideas shared and valued.
The illustrator has been intuitive in starting the story with Will surrounded by open(white) space on land. This is symbolic of his freedom from the confines of the ship, galley and isolating sea. However, after he is marched off to on-board, Will’s scenes show him confined, enclosed, restricted in the ship. It shows him having a go with the other pirates, trying his best to fit in. However, in the baking galley scenes, Will’s face fills the page bringing the reader into his sanctuary where he finds comfort. Also use of colour and facial expressions for mood and feelings allows children to empathise with characters eg., Will’s seasick scene, the Kraken’s special colour changes symbolising him transitioning from evil to good. Children enjoy being detectives, noticing, working out what these scenes mean in the narrative.
Also, the illustrator’s third layer of the story, uses illustrative interplay between the blue pirate parrot and the black pirate cat. These two characters are hysterical. It’s no wonder picture books are so loved and revisited.
The World’s Worst Pirate is available from publisher Little Pink Dog Books or any good bookshops.
*co-authors – creators of word and picture narratives
(27.2.2018 Announced as a Notable at 7pm Qld time and 6pm Sydney time.)
Life’s too short without good books. MPB