Jane Yolen’s non-fiction book, Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World, immediately caught my eye because of its gorgeous cover. A hardcover, with no book jacket, it’s navy blue background is contrasted against white and gold lettering, with a gorgeous painting centered between the title and author/illustrator names. This is a stunning book that gives the reader an immediate impression of importance. I felt important just holding it in my hand! This is a book that treats kids like they are worthy of the knowledge held within its pages, and I love the publishers for that!
The book begins with some brief background about pirates. It is detailed, and sometimes gory, but I loved it! I even found myself laughing out loud a few times. Yolen smashes some pirating myths, including the well-known one about walking the plank. I couldn’t help but laugh at her explanation:
Think of Captain Hook and all the many other tales of this cruel rite. Then ask yourself- what pirate actually had time for such things? In the midst of battle, they simply hacked their enemies to death and flung the bodies over the ship’s side.
Who knew that “walk the plank!” was nothing more than a pirate urban legend?
The remaining chapters are dedicated to individual women pirates. The countries of Ireland, England, Denmark, USA, China, Brittany, and Persia are all represented. The stories are as detailed as possible and lend themselves well to being read as individual episodes. At the same time, I had a hard time not reading this book straight through. The information is fascinating!
This is a book I can not wait to add to my classroom library. Pirates are always a popular topic and I am thrilled to be able to offer a great non-fiction book on the subject. I can also foresee using this as a mentor text during our research paper unit of study. I love Yolen’s bibliography. While it’s a strange part of a book to love, I can’t help but feel a sense of teacherly happiness because she includes a note about her research. She informs the reader that even though she wrote an earlier book on women pirates, there was little information available to her at the time. That book did not include many of the pirates in Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World because the information was simply not available. In the over 40 years since that book’s publication, pirate scholars (how cool is that job title?) have discovered so much more about female pirates. Kids need to know that research is never done, because we are always discovering more about a given subject. Thank you for sharing your research with us, Jane Yolen!