Pirate Year Round
Pirate Year Round
‘Cross the bay the sun dips low,
Shadows creep and pumpkins glow.
In her ship, down at the dock,
Pirate paces, checks the clock.
She’s not sure what she should wear.
Knitted cap with dreadlocked hair?
Same old shorts she’s worn all year?
Pirate Year Round is a charming portrait of a busy little pirate who uses the chores of her ship to avoid her fears of being with other children. Readers first meet Pirate sitting under a tree on the beach, watching other children swim in the ocean. When one shouts out an encouraging invitation, she replies, “No time to swim, the ship’s a wreck, time for me to scrub the deck!” As she busies herself with pirate duties, like painting the mast, cleaning the galley, and swabbing the deck with soapy water, she finds herself tumbling into the cold ocean to enjoy a swim with new friends.
Pirate meets each season with a mix of enthusiasm and caution. She is a girl who is more comfortable with her life on the ship with her chores, her hammock and her treasure chest filled with costumes. Her three friends – Jack, Viking, and Nanuk – encourage her to participate in activities like making a sand castle in the summer, skiing and snowshoeing in the winter or wearing a costume for Hallowe’en, but she is slow to warm up to new experiences. The rhymes that author Marla Lesage uses to describe Pirate’s reluctance each time are perfect, and when Pirate begins to feel more comfortable in her own skin, Lesage changes to “Pirate sparkles. Pirate shines” from “Pirate whimpers. Pirate whines.” It is the perfect transition to describe an adolescent pirate who is becoming someone who has friends on land. Each sentence is a delight to read aloud. You can’t help but enjoy the rhythm of the words chosen to express Pirate’s new adventures.
It’s also possible to see how the character’s expression changes as her comfort with her new friends grow. In the early panels, Pirate’s face looks sad or concerned, but, as she begins to participate in the activities, a warm smile begins to grow on her face. The balance of colour on the pages is wonderful. Pirate has bushy golden hair that she is trying to keep under control with a classic red pirate bandana, and she is the only character who wears this bright hue. Others are drawn in more muted colours, like faded greys, blues and pink, always drawing the eye to the main character. Some of the pages contain full-colour illustrations which reach the margins and include the ocean, her pirate ship and the beach, but others have three or four smaller images of Pirate alone in different poses. The variety of illustration approaches makes the book a pleasure to read, and it would be natural to return to favourite pages to see Pirate again and again, especially as she is often accompanied by an endearing white cat. The pages include little details that invite a reader to return and enjoy the illustrations again and search for more.
Pirate’s story ends in the spring with an invitation to the ‘Royal Dance Party’ and a chance to win a prize of gold – a tantalizing choice for any young pirate. After an early disappointment, she returns to the competition to use her grace and balance to win the golden coins and the knowledge that she had the talent inside her all along. Pirate Year Round is a beautifully illustrated book for fans of high sea adventure and anyone who needs a story showing that it takes more than one try to become a fearsome first mate.
Penny McGill is a library assistant in the Collections Department with the Waterloo Public Library in Waterloo, Ontario.