________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 13 . . . . March 4, 2005


Lucy and the Pirates.

Glen Petrie. Illustrated by Matilda Harrison.
Vancouver, BC: Tradewind Books, 1996.
32 pp., cloth, $18.95.
ISBN 1-896580-02-5.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Stacie Edgar.

** /4


One afternoon, Horace Maltby, captain of the Hornbeam, came into the shop with several of his crew and a passenger, Lady Marietta Tarrant, whom Lucy thought the most elegant lady she had ever seen. They were bound for the West Indies but, before they set sail, they wanted to buy lamp oil and candles, soap and linseed, a barrel of apples, big woolly sweaters, one cask of lime juice and casks of rum.

Lady Marietta offered to take Lucy to see the Hornbeam. As they strolled along the quay, Lucy told Lady Marietta about her father. ‘I wish I could sail to the West Indies to find him.’ said Lucy. ‘even if it is thousands of miles away and there are pirates and cannibals and things!’


This fast moving adventure of pirates and daring rescues begins when a stranger visits Lucy, the daughter of a sea-cook, in the middle of the night. The mysterious man, who refers to himself as Half-a-Man because “I been in the King’s wars and there’s naught but half o’ me left!” brings 40 pieces of Spanish gold for the young girl. Lucy is convinced that the money is from her father whom everyone has presumed dead. Lucy jumps at the chance to sail the seas in hopes to rescue her father because the Parson Smirke plans to marry her widowed mother, and his cousins, the Misses Meevil, plan to make Lucy their maid.

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     On her voyage, Lucy befriends Wilkins, the cabin boy on the Hornbeam. The young boy explains that he “had been born a slave on a sugar plantation on the island of Antigua, and one dark night he escaped and ran away to sea.” Lucy and Wilkins have both escaped slavery in search of freedom. Wilkins has found equality on the Hornbeam, but Lucy must still search for her father.

     Sailing the seas, they come across other ships, as well as the pirate ship, Blacktooth’s Revenge. Captain Blacktooth and his two wives, Susan Redshanks and Gunpowder Jane, overtake the Hornbeam, maroon the captain and his crew, and blow up the ship. Lucy, Wilkins, and Lady Marietta, whom Captain Blacktooth wishes as his third wife, are brought to the pirate ship.

     There, to her great joy, Lucy finds her long lost father. After another courageous escape, with the help of the Royal Navy, Lucy and her father are at last reunited with Lucy’s mother.

     This first children’s book for both Glen Petrie and Matilda Harrison demonstrates how a story can come alive with colourful and detailed illustrations. Ranging from full page spreads, to tiny insets, the whimsical characters relate the story’s old-world charm.

     As one reads the story of Lucy and the unlikely chain of events that leads to the discovery of her father, one is reminded of Pippi Longstocking. In this modern-day version, the young girl sails the seas, is not afraid of pirates, yet dresses like a boy to escape the clutches of Captain Blacktooth who only wants women as possessions. There are mixed messages between female strength and vulnerability. On the one hand, Blacktooth’s wives have their own ships and are just as terrible as their husband, but, at home, Lucy’s mother is at the mercy of Parson Smirke, who tries to take advantage of the poor “widow.”

     Lucy and the Pirates was published simultaneously in England and Canada. Children today may enjoy this entertaining and adventurous tale as a historical fiction picture book. But, while most of the vocabulary is common to both countries, there are some words, such as quay, that some will never find use for in their everyday speech.


Stacie Edgar is a student in the Integrated B.A./B.Ed. Education program at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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