Inspiring Young Readers
The Pirate who lost his Name by Lou Treleaven, illustrated by Genie Espinosa
I am quite often asked to work with children in schools on the ever popular theme of ‘Pirates’ and so have amassed quite a collection of related picture books over the last few years. It is quite a challenge for publishers to produce pirate related stories that are a bit different, because there are already so many already out there. I am pleased to say that this one, produced by Maverick Books, is suitably captivating and I have already used it successfully with a large group of wriggly five year olds.
So what makes this one distinctive? All the familiar piratey trademarks are vividly portrayed on the cover. This is a rather cross looking pirate who has a huge orange beard that spreads beyond the bottom edge of the page. There is a treasure chest in the corner and a cheeky looking parrot leaning into the picture. The pirate wears an eye patch but, the children with me when I read the story out loud, were more interested in why he had an angry looking bump on his head and why one of his eye brows was upside down. This just shows how an effective book cover makes the reader want to find out more, so we continued to the end papers that provided some more clues.
It seems that he has everything a self -respecting pirate should wish for, except that he just cannot remember his own name! We see a parade of his friends with interesting names who fall into different pirate categories: the boastful; the bearded and the romantic. I was rather taken with Captain Weirdybeard and Captain Dreamboat, but I’m sure that all of these imaginatively drawn characters would inspire plenty of other ideas from children.
No matter how hard he tries, he just can’t remember, so decides to go on a quest with his parrot to jog his memory. He is embarrassed to admit that he has forgotten his name so rather cleverly tries to sneak a look at various birthday cards that he has sent to his pirate friends, hoping to spot his signature written on the back. This plan gets complicated as not everyone keeps them in a way that will help him. For instance, Captain Anorak has stuck the card into his One Thousand Pirate Postcards Scrapbook which his visitor is not that keen on looking through. His last desperate idea is to visit Pirate Lop-It-Off’s Barber Shop, as he apparently won last year’s Best Pirate Beard Contest so is hoping to find some reference to his name on a poster. Still no luck but we get to see even more pirates in the salon having various beauty treatments – great fun! His loyal companion the parrot is becoming increasingly frustrated with the long quest and keeps saying ‘Squawk’ very loudly. When they eventually go to buy some more birdseed at Pirate Duff’s Bird Stuff shop – all is revealed.
As with all of her books, Lou Treleaven has injected plenty of humour. The catchphrase which proved to be a useful refrain as we read the story replaces one that is probably more familiar to adults:
‘Yo ho ho and a bottle of orange squash. And a dish of seeds for me parrot’.
I, along with the children, enjoyed this witty picture book with its many colourful illustrations showing the detailed world of pirates who all seem very jolly and unexpectedly keen on looking after their appearances – not a hint of blood or violence anywhere.