Book Review: Backbeard – Pirate for Hire
Let the creativity flag fly. I’m glad when every so often a book comes out that makes me think “well, this is unusual”. What do they call it when film companies show a movie to an audience and then make changes based on their reactions? Test audience? Focus Group? Well I like it when books don’t feel like they’ve been test-audienced to death. This is not to say that this type of book is always an outstanding pick; just like any book, it has to stand on its own. “Backbeard – Pirate for Hire”, certainly struck me as one of these pleasantly odd titles that kids appreciate.
Backbeard and his crew are pirates all right – they smell awful, steal, and like to break stuff. There’s just one thing that sets them apart from other pirates: their clothes. See, Backbeard and his crew like to keep it classy with the wardrobe. They prefer colorful ensembles (did you see the cover photo?) not seen on any other ship flying the skull and bones. It is this departure from the norm that sets our story in motion.
The Pirate Council, citing a rule which dictates “a pirate must look fearsome”, strip Backbeard of his pirate status. This forces the captain to leave his crew in search of another line of work. But, to put it in Apprentice-ese , his skill set doesn’t really make him a sought-after candidate for employment. Backbeard tries out a number of jobs, succeeding at none. It isn’t until he finds work in a tearoom and runs into some familiar faces that Backbeard begins to feel like his old self again.
Mr. McElligot’s accompanying artwork is outstanding. A combination of drawing, photography, and digital elements blend seamlessly. A quirky title that young readers will enjoy.
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About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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