Namesake

The second installment of the Fable duology, Namesake, picks up right where the first left off, at the kidnapping of Fable. Fable was taken from her crew onboard the Marigold to become a prisoner of the infamous pirate, Zola. However, Zola doesn’t just want Fable to sit around—she must become part of his crew too. Eventually, Fable finds out Zola’s motive behind forcing her to work for him: he needs her to dredge enough ore to impress Holland, the woman who controls the gem trade in the Narrows.

When Zola’s ship arrives in Bastion, Holland’s home port, Fable quickly discovers there is more to the story. Holland isn’t just a gem trader, she’s also Fable’s grandmother. While Zola wants to get into Holland’s good graces by reuniting Holland with her granddaughter, Holland still bears ill will against Zola since he helped Fable’s mother run away in her youth. Holland expects Fable to follow the path her mother did not, but Fable doesn’t want to be a pawn in anyone’s game. She has her own plans: free the Marigold from her father, Saint’s, control, and reunite with her lover, West.

Things become even more complicated when West shows up at Holland’s house, desperate to bargain for Fable’s freedom. Holland agrees—on the condition that the pair work together to take down Saint. While Fable’s relationship with her father is less than stellar, she still finds it difficult to work against him, even when her life is on the line. However, even though Fable is tested, she always tries her hardest to protect those she cares about.

Fable’s relationship with her family is at the forefront of this book. During her time doing Holland’s bidding, she learns more about her mother, including that she gave up a life of finery for the sea. Fable further develops her skills as a gem sage too, which also brings her closer to her mother. In terms of her father, the story ends with Saint finally claiming Fable as his daughter, which shows how far he and Fable have come. Fable says, by claiming her “he was handing over the sharpest blade to whoever might use it against him.” By being willing to claim each other as family, they create a vulnerability, but it’s a worthy sacrifice because of how much they care for one another. The happily-ever-after ending is somewhat unrealistic for the harsh world the story is set in, but the clichés are a tidy wrap-up to the events and conflicts opened by the first novel.

The story, overall, is more focused on adventure and enjoyment than presenting a lesson to readers. The plot twists and impulsive nature of the characters leave readers wondering what their next moves will be. The violence and sexual content in the story are not overly graphic, yet the Fable books may upset some readers because the characters struggle with the trauma of death, murder, abandonment, and other heavy topics. Namesake emphasizes our bonds to others as something worth protecting, even if they make us vulnerable. Love is worth the pain. In the end, as Fable walks at her father’s side, she says, “For the first time in my life I wasn’t hiding, and neither was he.”

Sexual Content

  • Fable is reunited with West. “In that moment, I only wanted to feel his rough hands on my skin and swallow the air around him until I could taste him on my tongue. . . His face lowered until his mouth hovered over mine, and he kissed me so gently that the burn of tears instantly erupted behind my eyes. My hands moved down the shape of his back and he leaned into me. . .  His teeth slipped over my bottom lip and the sting resurfaced from where the skin was still healing. But I didn’t care. I kissed him again and his hands reached for the skirts, pulling them up until I could feel his fingers on my legs. His touch dragged up, and when his hand wrapped around the stitches in my thigh . . .”
  • West and Fable kiss. “He pressed his forehead to mine before he parted my lips with his.”
  • Paj and Auster, two boys on the Marigold’s crew, kiss. Auster “pulled Paj toward him until he was low enough to Auster to kiss him.”
  • Fable and West sleep together. West “closed the space between us. . . His mouth hovered an inch above mine. . . His lips parted and the kiss was deep, drawing the air from the room. . . I pulled him toward me. . . his kiss turned hungry; his fingers pulled at the laces of my underdress until it was sliding over my hips. I smiled against his mouth, my bare feet stepping over the pile of silk on the floor as he walked us to the cot. I laid back on the quilts, pulling him with me so I could melt into the heat of him. I hooked my legs around his hips as I tugged at his shirt, finding his skin with my fingertips, and his breath shook on an exhale as he leaned all his weight into me. West’s lips trailed down my throat until the warmth of his mouth pressed to the soft hollow below my collar bone, then to my breast. . . his hands trailed up my thighs so he could take hold of my hips, and he fit me against him, groaning.”
  • West kisses Fable a few times. “He caught my hand when I stepped around him, drawing me back. As soon as I turned, he kissed me. . . West took a step toward me, and when I tipped my head back, he kissed me softly.”

Violence

  • West tells Fable about someone he killed. “I just walked up to him and put my hands around his throat and this quiet came over me. . . He fell out of his chair, and he was kicking and trying to pull my hands away. But I just kept squeezing. I kept squeezing even after he stopped moving.”
  • Fable attacks one of her kidnappers. “As soon as her gaze dropped, I pulled in a sharp breath and launched myself forward. Her eyes went wide as I barreled into her, and she hit the deck hard, her head slamming into the wood. I pinned her weight to the coil of ropes against the starboard side and reached for the knife. . . in the second I took to look over my shoulder, the woman rolled out from under me, catching my side with the heel of her boot. I growled, scrambling toward her until I had hold of her wrist. She tried to kick me as I slammed it into the iron crank that stowed the anchor. I could feel the small bones beneath her skin crack as I brought it down again harder, and the knife fell from her grip.”
  • Zola restrains Fable. “His other hand flew up, finding my throat. His fingers clamped down as he slammed me into the railing and squeezed until I couldn’t draw breath. His weight drifted forward until I was leaning over the side of the ship and the toes of my boots lifted from the deck.”
  • Fable sees Clove, her father’s right-hand man. She wishes he was dead. “In that moment, I had never hated anyone as much as I hated Clove. I’d never wanted so badly to see anyone dead. . . I imagined him in that crate that West dropped into the black sea.”
  • A dredger named Ryland tries to drown Fable. Ryland “yanked hard at my belt, sliding his knife between my tool and my hip, sawing. I kicked as the belt broke free and fell to the seafloor, trying to push him back. But he pinned me with one hand around my throat, holding me to the reef. I clawed at his fingers, screaming under water, and the cutting sting of coral sliced into my leg as I thrashed. . .” Eventually, he lets her go when he sees someone nearby.
  • Fable stitches up her own wound. “I threaded the needle with trembling hands and pinched the deepest part of the cut together. The needle went through my skin without so much as a prick, and I was grateful I was still so cold I could barely feel it. . . tears falling from the tip of my nose as I worked.”
  • Clove sneaks below deck while the crew are asleep. Fable thinks he’s coming to kill her, and she debates how to get him first. “If I was quick enough, I could strike first. Drive the blade of my knife up into his gut before he could get his hands on me. . . If I stabbed him beneath the ribs, catching a lung, it would be enough to keep him from running after me.”
  • Clove kills Ryland. “The glint of a knife shone in the darkness as Clove lifted his hands, reaching into Ryland’s hammock. . . The hammock shook above me [Fable] and something hot hit my face. I flinched, reaching up to wipe it from my cheek, and another drop fell, hitting my arm. When I held my fingers to the light, I went still. It was blood. Clove sheathed his knife before he reached back up and heaved Ryland from inside. I watched in horror as he took him onto his shoulder and his limp hands fell beside my face, swinging. He was dead.”
  • Holland has Zola killed. The guards “stepped into the room without a word, and before Zola even knew what was happening, they had him by the jacket, dragging him into the dark hallway. ‘Wait!’ he shouted. . . Zola’s voice suddenly vanished, and [Fable] heard his weight fall to the floor. . . a trail of fresh, bright blood seeped across the white marble and into the light spilling from the room.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Fable says her first drive “was followed by my first drink of rye.”
  • After nearly drowning, Fable has a few sips of rye to settle her nerves.
  • Occasionally, the characters will be visiting or conversing in a tavern, in which people are drinking rye.

Language

  • When Fable crosses paths with someone who wanted her dead, she exclaims, “shit.” West also says “shit” as an expletive one time.
  • Occasionally, Fable uses the word “bastard” to refer to Clove and Saint.
  • Saint calls Fable a “stubborn ass.”

Supernatural

  • Fable thinks momentarily that the murder of Ryland was “the work of spirits in the dark.”
  • Fable has her father swear on her “mother’s soul.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Maddie Shooter

Daughter of the Pirate King #1

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain, Alosa, deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the daughter of the Pirate King.

Alosa is an interesting protagonist who wants others to think that she has no morals; however, she isn’t a completely vicious pirate. Even though she talks about the countless men she has killed, when she takes the crew of the Night Farer captive, she only kills those who are cruel and depraved. She lets the young pirates go and takes several of the pirates on as crew members. Plus, she doesn’t allow anyone to kill Riden’s brother, Draxen, because she doesn’t want to cause Riden pain.

Alosa’s only weakness is her loyalty to her father, who is cruel beyond measure. She wants to make the Pirate King proud, but her main motivation is her fear of being punished. Alosa’s desire to please her father is implausible especially because his “training” was torturous and cruel. Even though the Pirate King does not appear in Daughter of the Pirate King, his influence continues to guide Alosa’s actions.

Daughter of the Pirate King is a fast-paced story that gives the reader a window into the pirate world. Despite this, none of the pirates are typical. Instead, the cast of characters is unique and shows that even in the pirate world some are despicable, and some are honorable. While Alosa’s female crewmembers do not appear often, they demonstrate the value of honesty, loyalty, and friendship. Plus, Riden adds a dash of romance, and the banter between Alosa and Riden is a lot of fun.

Full of twists, turns, and betrayals, Daughter of the Pirate King will keep readers interested until the very end. However, the pirate’s life is full of violence and the book does not shy away from graphic descriptions of bloody fights. If you’re a swashbuckler ready for adventure, you will have a hard time putting Daughter of the Pirate King down. However, if you’re looking for an excellent pirate book with a little less violence, Piratica by Tanith Lee would be an excellent choice.

Sexual Content

  • When Draxen takes Alosa as a prisoner, he warns her, “‘You will be the only woman on a ship full of cutthroat thieves, and blackhearts who haven’t made port in a good long while. You know what that means?’ Alosa responds, ‘It means your men haven’t been to a whorehouse recently.’”
  • Alosa’s father “bedded” a siren.
  • Alosa goes into a town that has “a tavern on one side of the street, a whorehouse on the other.”
  • Alosa and Riden struggle and Riden throws her on the bed. Alosa “is about to tell him to shove off, but then I feel his lips at my cheek. He’s not kissing me exactly, just touching my cheek with his lips. . .When he does finally kiss me, it’s right below my ear in that sensitive spot. Then he moves lower, trailing his lips down my neck at the side, then back up in the middle. . . I move my lips to his ear. My teeth grave his ear lobe, and his hands tighten in a different way.” The kissing scene is described over two pages.
  • Riden kisses Alosa. She thinks she should stop him but, “Riden’s lips taste even better than I’d imagined. Or because his hands make my skin tingle where they hold the sides of my face. . . When Riden’s lips move down to my neck, I forget all about my father. There’s nothing except heat and chills all at once. . .” Finally, Alosa pushes Riden away.
  • In order to search Draxen, Alosa tries to seduce him. “When I lift my head up to his, he greedily meets me for a kiss. . .But I get no enjoyment out of this. . . I shove Draxen down on the bed and climb on top of him. . . I can feel the lust burning in him. It’s disgusting and wretched, and I want to stamp it out.” Alosa eventually knocks him out. Then she searches his clothes for a map.
  • In order to search Riden, Alosa tries to seduce Riden. “I trace his upper lip with the tip of my tongue. . . Before I know it, he’s got his hand at the back of my head, the other on the side of my thigh. . . Riden knows where to stroke my skin to make me feel more alive. He has me practically panting under the pressure of his lips.” Alosa almost loses herself in Riden’s arms but uses her siren’s ability to put him to sleep. The scene is described over three pages.
  • One of the pirates likes “the company of other men.”

Violence

  • There is an overabundance of violence in the book and not all scenes are described below.
  • Alosa often thinks about her father’s training. “It doesn’t matter that he shot me once to show me the pain of a gunshot wound, to have me practice fighting while injured. . .It doesn’t matter that he would starve me and weaken me, then give me tasks to complete. . .”
  • Alosa intentionally gets “caught” by Draxen, the captain of the Night Farer. Kearan, a pirate, grabs Alosa. She thinks, “I’m done kneeling on the floor like some servant. Bracing my hands against the wooden deck, I extend my legs backward, hooking my feet behind the heels of the ugly pirate standing there. With one yank forward, Kearan topples backward. . . I hear scuffling as Kearan finds his feet. I jerk my elbow backward, connecting with his enormous gut. There’s a large splat as he collapses on the ground again.”
  • When Alosa begins struggling to get free, Draxen “removes his right hand from his belt and reaches down for one of his pistols. As soon as he has it, he points it at the first of my men in line and fires. . .the body of my crewman falls backwards.” Alosa and Draxen continue killing each other’s crew until Riden stops them. Alosa is taken prisoner but the crew is set free. The scene is described over four pages.
  • When Riden gets too close to Alosa, she knees him “right between the legs.” Alosa then locks Riden in a cell.
  • The Night Farer finds a ship that looks abandoned. Riden and Alosa go to check it out and are surprised by three men, who were in a hidden room. Alosa slams her “heel into the foot of the sailor on my right. Then my free hand goes to the other sailor’s throat. I place one hand at the back of each man’s neck. . . it isn’t difficult to connect their heads. Hard.” Then Alosa’s “dagger flies straight and true, finding its place in the sailor’s chest.” Once the ship is safe, the other crew members board it.
  • Shack, one of the Night Farer’s crew members, tortures two prisoners. Later, he finds Alosa alone and grabs her. Alosa struggles to get away and kicks “him in the face with my free foot. His face is a bloody mess now.” Then she stabs him in the stomach. “I don’t wait more than a couple of heartbeats before dislodging the weapon and stabbing again, this time higher, towards the heart… He is dead in seconds.” The scene is described over three pages.
  • Alosa “escapes” from the ship, and Riden finds her. They have a short fight. “I cut him on his arm. Riden is going a bit easy because he doesn’t actually want to hurt me.” Finally, Riden grabs Alosa’s wrist “with his free hand, and raises my sword to my neck. Before I can blink, the hand at my wrist grabs my sword, and he’s pointing both blades at me.” The scene is described over two pages.
  • As punishment, Alosa is put into shackles and hung. “Blood starts to slide down my arms… Every once in a while, I’ll start to regain my strength enough to pull the pressure off my wrist for a brief moment.”
  • Riden explains why he killed his father. Riden’s brother, Draxen “pitched his skill with the sword against our father. . .He [his father] disarmed Draxen and was about to kill him. But I picked up my brother’s fallen sword. And I killed him.”
  • Draxen interrogates Alosa. “Draxen gets behind me and yanks my head backward by my hair. I grimace at the pain. He strikes the side of my face with a closed fist. . . Draxen hits me with his other hand. This one bites more deeply.” Riden steps in and stops Draxen.
  • Alosa and Riden are captured by a pirate named Vordan. Vordan wants to learn about Alosa’s siren abilities. In order to get her to obey, Vordan has someone hurt Riden every time she refuses. A pirate “pulls out his cutlass and rakes it across Riden’s upper arm, cutting through his shirt and sending blood streaming down.” Later, a pirate “steps forward and kicks Riden in the face. Blood trickled out of his nose, staining the sand red… Riden is now unconscious and can’t feel any pain.” During Vordan’s experiments, Riden is injured repeatedly and he is shot twice.
  • Alosa’s crew comes to her rescue. Alosa takes some of the pirates captive and orders her crew to kill the rest. Sorinda “starts stepping behind the men and slitting their throats one after the other. Killing is practically an art for her. The way she moves is magical.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the pirates, Kearan, carries a flask of rum and drinks often. Someone tells Alosa, “He’s an ugly drunk because it takes away the pain. He has no desire to live, yet no desire to die, either. It’s a tough spot to be in.”
  • Riden finds a sleeping tonic hidden in Alosa’s belongings.

Language

  • Profanity is used rarely. Profanity includes arse, bastard, bloody, damn, hell, and piss.
  • Alosa thinks Riden is a “cocky bastard.”
  • Someone calls Alosa a whore.

 Supernatural

  • Alosa’s mother is a siren and Alosa is able to “use the gifts my mother gave me.” She uses her song on Riden. “He follows, captured by my spell. I know what Riden wants in life. Love and acceptance. I weave those into the song and command him to sleep and forget that he ever heard me sing.”
  • Alosa explains her parentage, “for a child who is conceived by a siren on land will be more human than not.”
  • When Alosa uses her siren abilities, “I lose myself in others if I’m focused on their feelings and desires too long. They start to become my own, and I forget who I am.”
  • Alosa can read people’s feelings, but “I can’t read minds. . . I never know the whys behind people’s intentions.”
  • Alosa makes Riden and another pirate see things that are not there. “I imagine a magical world full of new colors and sounds. Butterflies with brightly lit wings flutter around me… Riden bears a look of sheer wonder and astonishment. He reaches out in front of him as if to touch the invisible creatures I’ve placed in front of him.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

 

Thirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle leaves her boarding school in England to reunite with her family in America. She leaves England a prim and proper lady with a notebook from her father to detail her travels. However, Charlotte quickly discovers that her voyage home is not going to be smooth sailing.

On board The Seahawk, Charlotte fears the majority of the ship’s male crew, including the lone black man Zachariah, who gives her a knife the first time they meet. He warns Charlotte to keep the knife for protection, as “she might need it.” This is the first hint that things aboard The Seahawk aren’t all they seem, but Charlotte’s determined to keep her ladylike composure, especially in front of Captain Jaggery. Jaggery is a refined and educated man, unlike his crew, which prompts a friendship between him and Charlotte. Yet, Charlotte wonders if something more is awry when Jaggery asks that Charlotte become his “informant” and report any talk of rebellion to him.

After her promise, Charlotte discovers that the crew intends to mutiny. When Charlotte reports the threat, Jaggery responds with violence, killing some of the sailors including Zachariah. Suddenly, Charlotte’s journey turns into one of atonement. To fill the gap left by the now dead sailors, Charlotte joins the crew. Then, during a hurricane, the first mate is found with Charlotte’s knife in his chest. After a trial by Jaggery (who now scorns Charlotte because she has sided with the crew), Charlotte is proclaimed guilty, even though she didn’t commit the crime.

In the end, it’s discovered that Zachariah lived through his beating. He helps Charlotte create a plan to rid the ship of Jaggery and prove her innocence. They discover that it was Jaggery who murdered the first mate as a ploy to get rid of Charlotte, whom he hates for being an “unnatural” girl. Charlotte is able to dispatch Jaggery and sail home as a young captain with Zachariah by her side. However, her greatest conflict is the one she faces back on American soil, when her father burns her journal and forces her to be a “lady” again. Charlotte runs away from home when she remembers the words Zachariah once told her: “A sailor chooses the wind that takes the ship from a safe port. . . but winds have a mind of their own.”

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is a thrilling and detailed story for young adults. The book is told from Charlotte’s perspective, and she is a compelling narrator. At first, she’s somewhat difficult to like because she’s stuck in her ways, but the reader will sympathize with her desire to do what is right despite the criticism she faces as a woman. While it is unlikely something like Charlotte’s story ever happened at the time, the story is realistic in the context of the era – such as the behavior of the characters, the dialogue, and the use of religion. The end of the book also includes a glossary of ship terms which the author uses for the reader to feel as if they’re on board a ship just like Charlotte is. The overarching message of this story is to follow one’s own path, even in the face of adversity, and Charlotte is a character that embodies that until the end.

Sexual Content

  • Ewing, one of the crew, kisses Charlotte on the cheeks to say goodbye.

Violence

  • Zachariah gives Charlotte a knife for protection.
  • Charlotte uses the knife to scare an animal. “I heard a sound. I looked across the cabin. A rat was sitting on my journal, nibbling at its spine. Horrified, I flung the dirk at it.” The rat runs off.
  • Zachariah describes a past incident where Captain Jaggery punished one of the crew for not tying a knot properly. “Captain Jaggery said Mr. Cranick’s laboring arm was his by rights. Miss Doyle, Mr. Cranick has but one arm now. He was that much beaten by Captain Jaggery, who, as he said himself, took the arm.”
  • Captain Jaggery shows Charlotte that he keeps guns in his cabin.
  • Charlotte describes Jaggery’s violent behavior. “If provoked sufficiently, the captain might resort to a push or a slap with his own open hand. . . I saw him strike Morgan with a belaying pin, one of the heavy wood dowels used to secure a rigging rope to the pin rail. In dismay, I averted my eyes. The fellow was tardy about reefing a sail, the captain said and went on to catalog further likely threats. Confinement in the brig. Salary docking. No meals. Lashing. Dunking in the cold sea or even keelhauling, which, as I learned, meant pulling a man from one side of the ship to the other – under water.”
  • Charlotte finds a gun in one of the crew member’s chests. Another man, Morgan, who catches her, threatens her so she won’t tell the captain. “He lifted a hand, extended a stiletto like a forefinger, and drew it across his own neck as if cutting A spasm of horror shot through me. He was – in the crudest way – warning me about what might happen to me if I took my discovery to the captain.”
  • Captain Jaggery kills a crew member, who tries to start a mutiny. “Captain Jaggery fired his musket. The roar was stupendous. The ball struck Cranick square in the chest. With a cry of pain and mortal shock he dropped his sword and stumbled backward into the crowd. They were too stunned to catch him, but instead leaped back so that Cranick fell to the deck with a sickening thud. He began to groan and thrash about in dreadful agony, blood pulsing from his chest and mouth in ghastly gushes.”
  • Captain Jaggery has Zachariah whipped for starting the unsuccessful mutiny. The first mate “turned Zachariah so that he faced into the shrouds, then climbed up into these shrouds and with a piece of rope bound his hands, pulling him so that the old man was all but hanging from his wrists, just supporting himself on the tips of his bare toes. . . I turned to look at Captain Jaggery. Only then did I see that he had a whip in his hands.”
  • Jaggery says that the first mate, Mr. Hollybrass, will give Zachariah 50 lashes. “Hollybrass lifted his arm and cocked it . . .with what appeared to be the merest flick of his wrist, the whip shot forward; its tails hissed through the air and spat against Zachariah’s back. The moment they touched the old man’s skin, four red welts appeared. . .” Hollybrass continues to whip Zachariah.
  • Charlotte begs the Captain to make it stop. When Captain Jaggery refuses, Charlotte whips him. “He took another step toward me. In a gesture of defense, I pulled up my arm, and so doing flicked the whip through the air, inflicting a cut across the captain’s face. For an instant a red welt marked him from his left cheek to his right ear. Blood began to ooze. . . When [Captain Jaggery] saw they were bloody he swore a savage oath, jumped forward and tore the whip from my hand, whirled about and began beating Zachariah with such fury as I had never seen.” Later, Charlotte sees the sailors dump a hammock overboard, which is said to contain Zachariah’s dead body.
  • After Charlotte joins the crew, Captain Jaggery punishes her. “He struck me across the face with the back of his hand, then turned and walked away.”
  • Charlotte finds Mr. Hollybrass’s body after he’s been killed. “A knife was stuck in his back, plunged so deeply only the scrimshaw handle could be seen. I recognized the design. . .This was the dirk Zachariah had given me.”
  • Charlotte is accused of murdering Mr. Hollybrass since the knife belongs to her. Captain Jaggery threatens to hang her if she can’t prove who killed him.
  • After Charlotte realizes that Captain Jaggery has killed Mr. Hollybrass, he chased her with a pistol to kill her. Jaggery chases Charlotte out to the bow, where he falls into the sea and drowns.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the sailors, Morgan, has a tobacco pouch.

Language

  • Charlotte describes the sailors as “men recruited from the doormat of Hell.”
  • Captain Jaggery says that the men on the ship are unable to understand kindness. He says, “they demand a strong hand, a touch of the whip, like dumb beasts who require a little bullying.” He also calls the crew, “the dirtiest, laziest dogs” and “a poor set of curs.”
  • When Charlotte tells Jaggery that she suspects a mutiny, Jaggery says, “why the devil did you not tell me before?”
  • Captain Jaggery shouts, “damn you!” once.

Supernatural

  • Charlotte considers that Zachariah might’ve appeared to her as a ghost or an angel.

Spiritual Content

  • References to God, the Bible, and Heaven occur occasionally throughout the text. Captain Jaggery occasionally has a Bible with him, and a church service is held on the ship on Sundays, where Charlotte reads passages from the Bible to the crew. Captain Jaggery sometimes refers to himself as a Christian. “And was ever a Christian more provoked than I?”
  • Zachariah compares God to a ship’s captain. “When a ship is upon the sea, there’s but one who rules. As God is to his people, as king is to his nation, as father to his family, so is captain to his crew.”
  • After Cranick’s death, Zachariah wishes to give him a funeral, but Captain Jaggery wants him thrown overboard. Zachariah says, “Even a poor sinner such as he should have his Christian service.” Captain Jaggery replies, “I want that dog’s carcass thrown over.”
  • Charlotte feels responsible for what happened to the crew and Zachariah since she revealed their plot. She prays to God for forgiveness.
  • During Charlotte’s trial, each man swears on the Bible to tell the truth.
  • Zachariah tells Charlotte an old saying, “the Devil will tie any knot, save the hangman’s noose. That Jack does for himself.”

by Madison Shooter

Stinky Spike and the Royal Rescue

Can Stinky Spike sniff out a missing royal pup?

Stinky Spike and Captain Fishbeard are thick as thieves and ready for adventure! That is, until they’re captured! When Princess Petunia offers Spike a chance to find her lost puppy and free Driftwood’s crew, Spike is the top dog for the job. How hard could it be to find one fluffy royal pooch?

Stinky Spike takes center stage in a silly tale that has Stinky Spike and a princess looking for a lost puppy. While Stinky Spike’s love of putrid smells is a unique premise, the dog’s bad body order becomes less humorous as the story progresses. Stinky Spike is clearly the hero of the story, but he doesn’t use investigative skills and there are no clues for mystery-loving fans to follow. Another disappointing aspect of the story is that the pirates do not play a large role in the story’s plot. Despite this, younger readers will still enjoy Stinky Spike’s adventure.

Stinky Spike and the Royal Rescue has fun, brightly-colored illustrations that will tickle readers’ silly bones. Even though the story focuses on animals, the humans that Spike meets a diverse group of pirates. Plus, Princess Petunia has dark hair and brown skin. Stinky Spike and the Royal Rescue is told in three chapters and each two-page spread has 4 to 7 sentences. While early elementary readers will enjoy the story, they may need help with the story’s vocabulary.

Stinky Spike is a unique main character who has very few heroic qualities but still saves the day. The high-interest topic—dogs and pirates—will cause readers to pick up the book while the silly plot, large illustrations, and many animal characters will keep readers interested until the very end. Readers who want to learn more pirate facts should set sail to the library and check out Pirate Pedro by Fran Manushkin.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Stinky Spike, the princess, and a flock of parrots attack the pirates who have stolen the princess’s puppy. “The flock of seabirds flew at the pirates. They dove after their pirate hats. They pecked at their pirate beards. They clawed at their shiny silver buckles.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • King Seabreeze calls the pirates “bumbling buccaneers.”
  • A bear calls Stinky Spike and the princess “troublemakers.”
  • Spike yells at a parrot, “Watch where you’re flying feather-neck.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Peter and the Secret of Rundoon

Peter’s home is Never Land island, but his Lost Boys are starting to grow up and lose interest in island life. Before Peter can worry too much about what this means, the island is besieged by a tribe of warriors called Scorpions. With Peter wounded and the Mollusk’s defeated by the Scorpions, no one is prepared when Lord Ombra returns to the island, kidnapping Peter and his orphan friends.

Whisked away to Rundoon, the boys wonder what Lord Ombra wants from them. Peter isn’t sure if he even can do what Lord Ombra wants, but with his friends’ lives at stake, he feels he has no choice. Unbeknownst to him, Molly and her father are on their way to help. But will their appearance really be the dramatic rescue they’re hoping for? Or will their appearance actually bring about the end of the world, of light, and of the entire universe?

The third installment continues to jump from perspective to perspective, showing what’s happening from Never Land to Rundoon and places in between. However, unlike the previous books in the series, there is no main storyline to hook readers’ interest. Without one larger perspective shaping the narrative, it may be difficult for readers to become emotionally engaged in the plot.

While there is plenty of action, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, unfortunately, lacks the suspense of the previous installments. On top of this, not all the characters behave in a way that is consistent with their personalities in previous books. For instance, Smee becomes Acting Captain Smee after Captain Hook goes missing. Smee, who in previous books could barely string a sentence together or walk three feet without tripping, suddenly becomes well-spoken in his interactions with Shining Pearl, the Mollusk chief’s daughter.

One aspect parents might want to take note of is that this book continues and expands the theme of children disobeying and being praised for their disobedience. Peter disobeys Fighting Prawn and almost dies from an arrow wound; yet Fighting Prawn says, “you did well, disobeying me.” Continuing from the end of the previous book, Molly consistently throws fits, disobeys her father, and then is praised for disobeying him. These events are painted as though the children knew better, and it is unrealistic that adults would praise the children for their disobedience when it puts them and others in mortal danger.

Casual readers of this series may not want to pick up the next book, but devoted fans of the Peter and the Starcatchers series will pick up the next book, Peter and the Sword of Mercy, with the hopes that it revitalizes the suspense and character development of the first two books, rather than following in the emotionally lackluster footsteps of this one.

Sexual Content

  • Molly kisses Peter goodbye. “And then Molly kissed him on the lips. It was the first time either of them had ever kissed anybody on the lips, and it was a kiss they would both carry in their minds for the rest of their lives.”

Violence

  • A tribe of warriors called Scorpions has scars “caused by the tentacles of a particularly nasty type of jellyfish, the poison of which inflicted agonizing pain. . . its toxic tentacles searing his flesh like fire. Some men crumpled immediately to the ground, screaming; others passed out.”
  • Peter is shot by a poison arrow. “Peter felt it . . . a sharp pain like a bee sting . . . His fear turned to relief when he saw that the arrow had merely grazed him . . . Peter grunted as the muscles in his right leg suddenly contracted in violent cramps.”
  • The Scorpions attack the Mollusks. “Scorpion marksmen returned fire, sending dozens of poison-tipped arrows hissing toward the tops of the palm trees. A cream, then another, then still more—and Mollusk warriors began to fall from their perches.” The battle is described over five pages.
  • Ombra takes control of James and threatens him, in order to force Peter to obey. “‘You know I can make them suffer.’ As he spoke, Ombra/James raised his right hand, dug his fingernails viciously into his own cheek, and raked his face. Parallel trails of blood began to ooze from the wounds.”
  • While escaping from the Scorpions, a ship fires small iron balls from their cannon. It “sent a lethal hail flying across the water. The first three canoes stopped instantly as the paddlers fell backward, most of them wounded, some of them screaming.”
  • Tink helps in a sword fight by providing a bright flash of light. “Leonard and Bakari drew their own swords, and in a moment the stone corridor rang with the clash of steel on steel, swords flashing . . . The two guards screamed, covering their eyes—too late, as they were temporarily blinded. . . Leonard opened his eyes and stepped quickly between the helpless guards . . . clubbing them both unconscious.”
  • Men try to stop Molly and George from stealing a camel. “He grabbed Molly’s leg, jerking it down and back. Molly screamed in pain. George lashed out and kicked the man’s head; he grunted and let go.”
  • A guard clouts Ted. “A clout on the ear silenced Ted.”
  • Tink stops a man chasing Molly. Tink “delivered a kick to his nose that made him yelp in pain and veer sideways, his blade harmlessly slicing the air.”
  • Shining Pearl sees “the body of a pirate . . . an arrow sticking out of his chest, a reminder of the battle that had taken place here when the Scorpions had overrun the fort. Shining Pearl stared at the body. It looked ghastly pale in the moonlight.”
  • A man chases George with a knife. “George, unable to get away, closed his eyes, waiting for the pain of the blade.” George gets away.
  • The boys drop anything they can find on men who are chasing their ship. “The missiles hit two of the men on the head, causing them to fall back into their boat.”
  • When men fire on the boys’ ship, several are hit. “George heard a high-pitched scream and saw Thomas crumple to the deck, holding his leg. He felt a thud in his left arm, as though somebody had punched him; he looked down and saw blood. A second later, he felt the searing pain.”
  • The boys break Molly’s father out of prison with a cannon. “A second cannonball slammed into the dungeon wall directly outside their cell, hurling all three occupants to the ground in a hail of flying stone. . . Blood poured from Leonard’s chin, where he’d been cut by a shard of masonry, but they were otherwise unhurt.”
  • Captain Hook joins in a sword fight. “Bellowing fearsomely and wielding the sword with a pirate’s ruthless efficiency, he began hacking his way through the soldiers.”
  • Zarboff is eaten by his own pet snake. “Zarboff emitted a few panicked cries . . . And then he could no longer breathe; he could only struggle in silent horror as his beloved pet began the slow, relentless process of feeding on him.”
  • When his people are enslaved, Fighting Prawn leads a rebellion. “The three remaining Scorpion guards, clearly stunned by the revolt, at first tried to run toward the tunnel; but, finding their path blocked, had backed against the cavern wall, lashing out with whips and knives while shouting for help. But no help came, and the Scorpions were soon brought down by a hail of rocks hurled by the slaves they had once tormented.”
  • While rebelling against their captors, “Fighting Prawn and his men slammed into the gate, knocking the two Scorpions to the ground. Neither would ever get up again.”
  • Mister Grin, a giant crocodile, eats the Scorpion chief. “Fighting Prawn was knocked sideways by the mighty croc just as it reached the Scorpion chief, who drew his spear back in a desperate effort to defend himself. He had no time to bring it forward. The monstrous maw opened wide, then snapped shut. The Scorpion chief was gone.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • When George hears tale of an underwater ship, he says, “I think the dolphins got into the grog.”
  • Molly and George are able to sneak off a ship because “the crew doz[ed] off after a bit too much food and grog.”

Language

  • A man says, “Who the devil are you?”
  • Captain Hook calls people “idjit” several times.
  • Tink calls people “idiots” four times.
  • A monkey tells Tink, “The birds around here are idiots.”
  • Tink calls Molly “a big stupid fish” and a “cow.”

Supernatural

  • Starcatchers are “a small group of people . . . There have been Starcatchers on Earth for centuries, Peter. Even we don’t know how long. But our task is always the same: to watch for the starstuff, and to get to it, and return it, before it falls into the hands of the Others.” The Others misuse starstuff to gain power.
  • Starstuff is golden dust that sometimes falls from the sky as meteors and “has amazing power . . . Wonderful power. Terrible power. It . . . it lets you do things . . . It’s not the same for everybody. And it’s not the same for animals as for people.” Starstuff can heal, can make people fly, or can even make people strong. Molly explains that larger quantities are more dangerous and can kill a person, or turn a fish into a mermaid, horses into centaurs, and other transformations.
  • Starcatchers have learned the language of porpoises, bears, and wolves. They work together often to find and return any starstuff that falls to earth.
  • Some fish on Peter’s island were turned into mermaids by starstuff.
  • Molly’s father turned a bird into a fairy, to watch over Peter. Her name is Tink. She calls herself a “birdgirl.”
  • Peter was exposed to a large quantity of starstuff. As a result, he can fly permanently and will never grow older.
  • A shadow creature called Lord Ombra has many abilities and seems to be more shadow than man. Lord Ombra can read thoughts if he touches a person’s shadow. He can also steal shadows, which allows him to control and/or impersonate that person.
  • Lord Ombra says “There are two conflicting sides in what you call the universe. On one side is creation, being light; on the other side is destruction, nothingness, darkness. . . I am darkness.” Ombra explains that starstuff falling to earth is what makes life grow on earth.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Morgan Lynn

Catnapped!

Fighting like cats and dogs? Exactly! The puppy pirates played a prank on the kitten pirates and meow! the kittens sure are mad. After an ambush, the kittens capture some of the Salty Bone’s crew. The puppies are able to find their way out of lockup, but how will they escape the ship? Can the pups escape the kittens’ claws? It’s dogs versus cats, and may the best pirates win.

Catnapped shows that even the bravest pirates sometimes feel fear. For instance, Wally is terrified of the water. Despite his fear, Wally jumps to the rescue when his friends need him. While escaping the kittens’ pirate ship, someone drops an oar which floats away. Wally swims in the ocean so he can retrieve the boat’s oar. Without Wally’s bravery, the puppy pirates would have been stranded in the middle of the ocean.

Even though the puppies’ pranks are humorous, the story shows how one prank can cause a host of problems. When Wally and the others finally break free, some of the puppies want to seek revenge. Old Salt gives wise advice, “Consider your next steps carefully, Captain. I just mean, maybe it’s best to end this here. Don’t go looking for more trouble.”

Each book in the Puppy Pirates Series focuses on the same characters while still adding plenty of unexpected action to the story. The black and white illustrations are adorably cute and will also help readers understand the story’s plot. With short chapters, large text, and illustrations every 1 to 5 pages, Catnapped is the perfect book for readers ready for chapter books.

Catnapped takes the feud between cats and dogs and creates an entertaining story that pirate-loving readers will enjoy. Young landlubbers will be eager to find out how the pirate puppies escape the kittens’ claws. With 7+ books in the series, the Puppy Pirates Series has plenty of adventure to entertain readers.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The kitten pirates ambush the puppies. “The cats were clearly angry, all hisses and claws.” A puppy turns on the sprinklers, and “the kitten pirates panicked and ran toward the trees.”
  • The kitten pirates trick the puppies. “A net fell from the tree, right on top of Wally, Henry, Spike, and Puggly.” The kittens lock them up at the bottom of their ship.
  • As the puppies escape in a dingy, the cats throw hairballs at them.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • When some of the puppy pirates are kidnapped, the puppies escape by giving the kittens catnip. The kittens “squealed and squeaked and flopped all over the wooden dock. They were out of control.”

Language

  • A kitten pirate calls two pugs “scurrrrrvy dogs.”
  • A puppy calls a group of kittens “hairballs.”
  • A dog says the kittens are “just a bunch of pussycats.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog

Ahoy! When this shipyard pup gets lost at sea, he’s rescued by a crew of stinky pirates led by Captain Fishbeard. Spike must prove to the captain he can be a real pirate. Luckily, Stinky Spike has the best nose on the seven seas, and he uses it to sniff out all kinds of treasure. But what happens when Spike’s sense of smell leads him to some very strange loot?

Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog is a silly story with alliteration, onomonopia, and dialogue that makes the story fun to read out loud. The story focuses on how Spike became the Pirate Dog and the humorous, unexpected characters he meets along the way. For example, when Spike was lost at sea, he meets two sharks that don’t want to eat him. The sharks just want Spike to go away because “you stink so bad that you’ll scare away our dinner.” Even though much of the humor comes from all the terrible things Spike smells, readers will also enjoy all of the animals and people Spike meets.

The entertaining story has wonderful, brightly colored illustrations that will tickle readers’ silly bones. Even though the story focuses on animals, Spike also meets a small but diverse group of pirates. The large illustrations add comedy to the story by adding little surprises, like the pirate captain with a peg leg, a parrot on his hat, and fish sticking out of his beard. Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog is told in three chapters; each two-page spread has 4 to 7 sentences.

Fans of the Pirate Puppies Series by Erin Soderberg will quickly fall in love with Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog. While the story lacks pirate language, its humor and unexpected surprises will entertain readers. Plus, the story could lead to a fun discussion on what people and pirates consider to be treasure. If you’re looking for a fun story that your little reader will love, Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog has plenty of treasure inside its pages including interesting characters, humor, and detailed illustrations. Readers who want to read more imaginative pirate stories should also read All Paws on Deck by Jessica Young.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • While protecting a ship’s cargo, “a group of angry gulls began squawking and swooping and pecking at Spike.”
  • As the seagulls chased Spike, he fell into the ocean. “Spike doggy-paddled toward shore, but the strong current pulled him out to sea.”
  • While lost at sea, “hungry sharks swam slow circles around him.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

 

Pirates, HO!

Swashbuckling pirates sail the seas, braving storms, battles—and other pirates! From the first mate down to the cabin boy, they are rascals through and through.

But at night, by the light of the moon, they tell each other ghost stories. . . and guess who ends up being scared?

Pirates, HO! is a fun story that shows stereotypical pirates who want to find gold. “There’s Peg-Leg Tom and Angus Black, Dreadful Nell, and One-Eyed Jack. A thieving, lying, rascally crew, the worst you’ve heard of us is true. . .” In addition, one of the pirates has a tattoo of a ship on his chest. Even though the pirates themselves are not unique, the end of the book contains a humorous surprise. Although the pirates are brave, ghost stories make them afraid. Young readers will relate to the pirates who are afraid of the dark and they will giggle when the pirates hide in their beds.

The picture book’s illustrations use bold colors and cartoonish pirates that have lots of fun details such as a scared pelican listening to the pirate’s ghost story. Some of the illustrations use humor. For example, when the pirates are chasing another boat, two people ski behind the ship. Each page has 1 to 3 sentences. The text uses rhyming and pirate words that will capture readers’ attention and make Pirates, HO! an excellent book to read aloud.

Parents looking for a fun book that young readers will want to read repeatedly should add Pirates, HO! to their reading collection! Even though the story is full of scowling pirates, kids will fall in love with the motley crew. But be ready for readers to begin talking like a pirate. The pirates say, “We shout, ‘Avast!’ We cry, ‘Ahoy!'” If you’re looking for more pirate action, you may also want to read All Paws on Deck by Jessica Young.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The pirates tie a man up with rope. The man is walking the plank. “Our swords are steel and our hearts are stone as we send our foes to Davy Jones. We are pirates, pirates, ho!”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The pirates tell ghost stories. “Now hear of a captain who sold his soul for the glitter of jewels and the gleam of gold.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

Piratica

Art attends a school for proper young ladies. That is, until she bumps her head and remembers her long-forgotten past. Her mother was Piratica, a pirate queen, and Art grew up on her mother’s pirate ship. Art lost her memory not in a mundane accident, but from an exploding pirate ship that claimed her mother’s life! Now that she remembers where she came from, Art quickly takes on her mother’s mantel and runs away to find her mom’s old pirate crew.

Felix was already down on his luck when an unfortunate run-in with Art leaves people thinking he is a famous highway robber. Unable to convince the law that he is innocent, Felix is forced to flee for his life. He ends up on Art’s pirate ship, where he is courteously imprisoned. The pirates promise he will be put ashore when they are far enough from London that he cannot turn the pirates into the law. However, as their adventures continue, Felix finds his utter distaste for pirates warring with a growing admiration for Art’s fearlessness.

Piratica honors bravery, loyalty, and a bit of pirate flair. Art is an inspiring character, who is not immune to doubt, but she is unwilling to let it slow her down for a moment. Determined to will her dream of becoming a pirate into reality, her pirate crew cannot help but be swept along by her vision. With a delightful cast of well-developed supporting characters, every scene carries readers along this swashbuckling tale.

Full of fun, adventure, and a healthy helping of piratical ridiculousness, Piratica is a must-read for anyone who loves adventure, pirates, or strong female characters. The silliness is over-the-top, yet remains believable and thoroughly enjoyable. With plenty of action but not much gore, this is an excellent story for readers looking for more exciting adventures who aren’t mature enough for adult content.

Sexual Content

  • A girl kisses Felix as he escapes from a fight. “She kissed Felix so forcefully it knocked him into the chute.”
  • When the pirates reach Africay, “Slender black locals . . . offered them wives. . . Even Art was offered a wife.”

Violence

  • When one of Art’s pirates slanders her, she slaps him. He “raised his fist . . . but Art had ducked Black Knack’s blow with the perfect weaving motion of the trained fighter. Swimming back, she punched him instead with a sharp thwack on the point of his shaveless jaw. Black Knack’s eyes rolled up. He keeled straight over.”
  • A fight breaks out in a bar. “Cutlasses sparkled and fists flailed. Flying bottles and cuts filled the air . . . Art avoided a descending beer mug and shoved off a fighter who had got carried away and was trying to brain her with a chair.”
  • Art and her pirates capture a ship. When the captain tries to fight, “Art kicked him hard in the leg, and he went to one knee. Behind her at once she heard a scuffle, two or three cries, a series of thuds.”
  • Art and her pirates defend themselves when another ship tries to board them. “She fired. The bullet whizzed, unseen, over the sea between the two ships . . . The bullet struck, as Art had meant it to, a smoke-wreathed barrel of gunpowder left on the forecastle. Which blew up like a firework of pink and primrose.” The fight is described over three pages.
  • A pirate shoots Black Knack. “Then Goldie fired. Fire flash. The silliest sound—like a huge twig snapping. Black Knack seemed to jump—that was all—to jump forward—forward—The jump took him right past the hatch . . . it threw him instead to the lip of the cliff. And over.”
  • Art and Goldie duel. “As she sprang, Art saw Mr. Beast rearing, cutlass and pistol in the way, and landed a fist of ringed knuckles at the base of his nose . . . one of those little knives came zipping out, straight for Art’s throat. Art dodged . . . the knife cut her thinly along the right cheekbone. But Goldie, they now all saw, was bleeding at the temple where the hair had been sliced away.” The fight is described over five pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • When running away, Art sees the gate porter “drinking hot gin. He never noticed her, and minutes later she was over the wall.”
  • When a highwaywoman comes to a tavern, the owner says “I’ll take a look at your loot, dear, and we’ll drink some gin.” The highwaywoman responds that she wants sherry because “You know I can’t stand the gin.”
  • Art and her crew visit a tavern with “tall tots of rum and liqueurs.”
  • After a victory, Art’s pirate crew “downed everything—rum, wine, the brandies of Africay, the home-brewed lemon ciders, coffee in which a knife could have stood upright.”
  • For their last meal, Art receives “a bottle of wine.”

Language

  • God is used as an exclamation twice. Art’s dad says, “By God, what’s this?” Another time, Felix says “Oh, God.”
  • Devil is used as part of exclamations. Art’s father exclaims, “Why the devil are you smiling?” A man says, “If a woman did such a thing—she was the devil itself.”
  • Funny exclamations are used often. A few examples include “Cat’s Wallopers,” “Goat’s Gizzards,” “Caterwauling Stars,” “Dastardly Custard,” “by the Sacred Pig of Eira,” and “By the Yak!”
  • Variations of damn are used several times. A man says, “You’re damnably late, sir.” Another man says, “Get your act together, and we’ll be off, dammit innit.”
  • Hell is used as an exclamation several times such as “Hell’s Porcupines,” “By the Blast of Hell,” and “Hell’s Kettles!” Also, a pirate calls Art “a hell of a captain”, and once Art asks, “What the hell could that be?”
  • Poo is used twice. A man says, “And poo to you, too!” Another man says, “Poo to you, sir!”
  • A man calls someone a “pompous asp.”
  • When going into a pitch-black cave, Black Knack tells Ebad, who is black, “Don’t you go in, Ebad. We’ll lose you.” Durk turns and slaps Black Knack in response.
  • Bitch is used twice. Goldie tells her pirates, “You lazy pigs—come here and help me finish this bitch.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • A man exclaims, “By the Lord’s Armchair.”
  • One of Art’s pirates says, “I wish to God Molly were here.”
  • A pirate cries, “Fill ‘em full of lead, by the Lord’s Armchair” and another says, “by the sacred Blue of Heaven.”
  • Ebad says, “It’s Molly. By the Lord God. Our Molly Faith.”
  • The pirate Black Knack tells Art, “You’re no girl. You’re a demon. But—a hell of a captain, I’ll give ye that.”
  • Before supper, a pirate says, “Thank you, God, for the gift of greed.”
  • Art finds a message left by pirates. It reads, “We are the Pirate Kind. We live by blood and murder. We end our days on a rope, or under the pitiless acres of the Sea. After which, we are told, we must suffer forever in the Kingdom of Hell, for our Sins.”

by Morgan Lynn

X Marks the Spot

Wally and the puppy pirates are hunting for buried treasure! Legend has it that a famous old sea captain, Growlin’ Grace, hid pirate booty on Boneyard Island, and Wally and his friends have a map to find it! Land ho! Can the pups follow the trail and sniff out the treasure?

Wally, Henry, and the pups take center stage in X Marks the Spot. As they follow the treasure map, they have to use their skills to avoid booby traps. Several times, they save Captain Reb Beard and the other puppy pirates. Readers will enjoy the funny interaction between the pups and the fast-paced action as the puppies explore Boneyard Island.

Most of the pirates believe that the treasure will be gold and jewels. However, when they find Growlin’ Grace’s treasure, they find her map collection which is special because “they reminded her of her greatest adventures with her crew.” When the pirate puppies take the treasure, the island dogs are upset others won’t visit their island. So Captain Reb Beard and his crew leave treasure, which consists of things that were special to each individual puppy. Through the puppy’s experiences, the reader will learn that treasure doesn’t have to be gold and gems. Instead, “the best treasure any pirate can hope for is the promise of more adventure.”

Readers will love following the clues to find buried treasure and seeing Wally and his friends use some creative solutions. The story doesn’t use as much pirate language as the first book in the series, however, the book is still entertaining.

Even though X Marks the Spot is part of a series, the book can be read as a stand-alone. The black and white illustrations are adorably cute and will also help readers understand the story’s plot. With short chapters, large text, and illustrations every 1 to 5 pages, X Marks the Spot is a great book for readers ready for chapter books. Readers who want more dog-related pirate fun should read All Paws on Deck by Jessica Young.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • While trying to find treasure, Captain Reb Beard and his crew get trapped. One puppy says, “When he saw a big, meaty pile of bones, he pounced. But the bones were bait for a booby trap! We all got scooped up into the net.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When Captain Reb Beard finds puppies spying on him, he calls them “scurvy dogs.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Peter and the Shadow Thieves

Peter has been having a grand old time on his island, dubbed Never Land, despite some squabbles with the pirates who live there. However, when a strange ship docks looking for the starstuff, Peter’s peace is shattered. He overhears a strange shadow-like creature threatening Molly, and makes a snap decision to follow the ship to London in order to warn her.

Peter is not prepared when he reaches London. He has to keep Tink, his fairy or birdgirl, hidden. He doesn’t have shoes or a coat, he doesn’t know where Molly lives, or how to survive on the streets of London. Obstacle after obstacle gets in Peter’s way. Will it be too late to save Molly from the shadow thief and its strange powers? And will Peter ever get back to Never Land, to rescue his friends who’ve been captured by the pirates in his absence?

Peter and the Shadow Thieves is packed full of adventure from start to finish. This installment jumps from many different third-person points of view, allowing readers to see what’s happening on Never Land, with Peter and Molly in London and with the bad guys all at once. While the changes in perspective are clear, readers might not enjoy jumping from the main thread with Peter and Molly in England to Never Land every so often, as it reduces the suspense of the main storyline.

While Peter further learns the importance of working together, Molly uncharacteristically throws a tantrum, reveals the starcatchers’ secrets, and nearly ruins her father’s important mission. Despite her childish behavior, her father forgives her and thanks her for her bravery, which is not believable.

However, fans of Peter and the Starcatchers will be pleased with the second installment in the series. Readers will get to see all the beloved characters from the first book, along with some new friends and a frightening new villain. Timid readers may have nightmares about Lord Ombra, the terrifying shadow thief, who can steal shadows and control minds. More adventurous readers will be thrilled at the continuous suspense, twist and turns, and non-stop adventure that is thus far the hallmark of this series.

This book wraps up its major plot points while leaving plenty of questions that will leave readers eagerly reaching for the next book, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon. With plenty of action but not much violence, this is a great series for those readers itching for more exciting adventures who may not yet be ready for more mature content.

Sexual Content

  • When a mermaid kisses someone, they give the person the ability to breathe underwater for a short amount of time. When rescuing one of Peter’s friends, a mermaid kisses him so he can breathe underwater. “A kiss. His first, actually. Soft lips, right on his. Suddenly his lungs stopped burning.”

Violence

  • It’s mentioned in passing that when Mr. Slank was stuck at sea, he had been “forced to kill and eat” the other man he was stuck with “so he could stay alive.”
  • When rescuing his friend, Peter is almost captured by Captain Hook, but Captain Hook is distracted by Tink. Captain Hook, “clapped the hand to his eye, which had just received a hard poke from a tiny but amazingly potent fist.”
  • A man clouts Peter on the ear. “Kremp scuttled over and clouted Peter on the ear. Fortunately for Peter, Kremp was an inexperienced clouter, and it was not too painful.”
  • When escaping prison, “Peter felt a hand grab his left leg; he kicked it free. He turned the key, and the shackle on his right ankle opened . . . Peter kicked with all his strength, heard a loud ‘Ow!’ and a curse below him, and then shot upward, away from the chain and the shackles.”
  • One of Molly’s maids threatens her with a knife. The maid “had crossed the room, bringing the point of the knife to within inches of Molly’s face.” Molly is unharmed.
  • While trying to escape a shadow thief, a man “fell down the steep staircase, his head hitting the stone with a sickening sound.” The man dies on impact.
  • While escaping the men who kidnapped her mother, Molly is grabbed by one of the bad men. Molly “opened her mouth and bit down on [his hand] with all her strength. The hand was yanked away as the owner screamed in pain, and Molly, with a last, desperate wiggle, fell through the hole.”
  • Molly’s friend George tackles a man in her way. “Unfortunately, Magill was considerably taller than George’s usual targets; George had connected, noggin-first, with Magill’s right knee. The collision proved extremely painful for both parties. Magill yelped as he skipped sideways on this left foot, both hands holding his knee. George thudded to the ground, moaning, clutching at his throbbing skull.”
  • Molly’s father is shot. “Molly heard the shots and screamed as she saw her father crumple to the ground.” He survives.
  • When Slank captures Molly, Peter kicks him. “‘Hello, Slank!’ shouted Peter, delivering a high-velocity kick to Slank’s head as he shot past.”
  • A bear named Karl attacks the bad guys. “With a swipe of his enormous paw, he sent the closest of the rifles skidding across the dirt like a twig.”
  • Peter is shot. “UNNNH. Peter did not hear the shot that hit him; only his own grunt as the bullet tore through his left shoulder, hurling him forward onto the trunk. He slid facedown onto the dirt, wondering why he didn’t feel anything . . . His left arm didn’t work. He rolled sideways and the world became a red blur as the pain suddenly shot from his shoulder, surging through his body.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Sailors are fond of grog, an alcoholic drink. A sailor “kept his face turned away . . . fearing the captain would smell the grog that had put him to sleep on his watch.”
  • When a deckhand tells a far-fetched tale, the other sailors “were convinced he must have gone mad, or gotten into the grog.”
  • A sailor thinks he sees something strange, perhaps a bee, though there are no bees at sea. In response, the captain takes “him off his ration of grog. He’s too young for grog if he’s seeing bees.”
  • A homeless drunk tells Peter, “Sometimes, when I has me rum, I sees things that ain’t there.”
  • When they reach London, the captain keeps his sailors on his ship because “once they’d gotten ashore and filled their bellies with grog, it was only a matter of time before they were wagging their tongues about the ship’s strange voyage.”
  • It’s mentioned in passing that, “Most of the crew had gathered forward along the rail to watch a bloody, drunken brawl taking place outside the Jolly Tar, a notorious dockside pub.”
  • It’s mentioned that “some sailors, having overdone the grog, slept against the wall of the Jolly Tar; one was passed out in a wheelbarrow.”
  • A clerk keeps ducking beneath his desk to sneak gulps of alcohol. “The clerk ducked down behind the counter, and Peter heard the sound of liquid being swallowed.” The clerk makes a bargain with Peter. He will mail Peter’s letter if Peter takes his flask to a nearby bar and gets a refill.

Language

  • Captain Hook calls his men “idjit” several times.
  • Tink is a jealous fairy. She calls one of the mermaids a “fat grouper” twice, and she calls Molly a “cow” twice.
  • Captain Hook hatches a plan to catch the boys, and says, “I have you now, you little devils.”
  • When Molly’s friend George smacks his head on a windowsill, Tink comments, “Another idiot.”

Supernatural

  • Starcatchers are “a small group of people . . . There have been Starcatchers on Earth for centuries, Peter. Even we don’t know how long. But our task is always the same: to watch for the starstuff, and to get to it, and return it, before it falls into the hands of the Others.” The Others misuse starstuff to gain power.
  • Starstuff is golden dust that sometimes falls from the sky as meteors and “has amazing power . . . Wonderful power. Terrible power. It . . . it lets you do things . . . It’s not the same for everybody. And it’s not the same for animals as for people.” Starstuff can heal, can make people fly, or can even make people strong. Molly explains that larger quantities are more dangerous and can kill a person, or turn a fish into a mermaid, horses into centaurs, and other transformations.
  • Starcatchers have learned the language of porpoises, bears, and wolves. They work together often to find and return any starstuff that falls to earth.
  • Some fish on Peter’s island were turned into mermaids by starstuff. “Peter could see the tiny figures of a half dozen mermaids sunning themselves on the broad, flat rock they favored.”
  • Molly’s father turned a bird into a fairy, to watch over Peter. Her name is Tink. She calls herself a “birdgirl.”
  • Peter was exposed to a large quantity of starstuff. As a result, he can fly permanently and will never grow older.
  • A shadow creature called Lord Ombra has many abilities and seems to be more shadow than man. Lord Ombra can read thoughts if he touches a person’s shadow. He can also steal shadows, which allows him to control and/or impersonate that person.
  • In an attempt to escape prison, Peter uses his locket of starstuff. The result is that he, the guard, and the other prisoners that Peter is chained to all float into the air and fly for a few minutes before the starstuff wears off. When others hear what happened, “the word ‘witchcraft’ is whispered by the crowd.”

Spiritual Content

  • When a man asks a shadow thief, “Who the devil are you?” the shadow thief responds, “Not the devil, but a good friend of his.”
  • When Molly’s father hears the starcatchers’ mission was a success, he says, “Thank God.”

by Morgan Lynn

Peter and the Starcatchers

Peter thinks life cannot get any worse after he and some other boys from the orphanage are dumped on a ship. They’re told that they are bound to become servants to a cruel king. But then strange things start happening on the ship: flying rats, talking porpoises, and a mysterious girl named Molly. The strange occurrences all center around one heavily guarded trunk. But when Peter tries to investigate, Molly gets in his way.

Molly’s father is a starcatcher, with a very important mission. He’s supposed to be transporting precious cargo on another ship. When Molly discovers the two trunk got switched and the precious cargo is on her ship, she knows she must guard it from an overly curious orphan boy. However, when the porpoises tell her a pirate is coming for the treasure, Molly may just have to trust Peter in order to stop the powerful treasure from falling into the wrong hands.

The first half of Peter and the Starcatchers bounces between Peter’s, the pirate Black Stache’s, and Molly’s father’s perspective, creating a fast-paced narrative as the three ships maneuver to steal or protect the treasure. The second half of the book takes place on a remote island, after Peter’s ship crashes onto an island reef. Again, the perspective changes frequently from a wide host of characters, but rather than being confusing, the changing perspectives create excitement and allow readers to see what is happening all over the island. Each character is developed enough to have a unique voice, and readers will enjoy watching as each person fights for a different goal.

The story has plenty of action and suspense, which may frighten more timid readers. Anyone who enjoys a swashbuckling adventure will be delighted by the frequent twists and turns as the different parties clash in their struggle for the treasure. By the end of the story, the island becomes quite crowded with people vying for the treasure, including: Peter and the other orphan boys, Molly, Black Stache and his pirates, the island natives, a group of newly-created mermaids, and Molly’s father with his team of Starcatchers. Each group is well-developed and richly described. Readers will love seeing the story from each group’s perspective—even the groups they are rooting against!

While the large cast of characters doesn’t allow for every individual to be deeply developed—for example, most of Black Stache’s crew are stereotypical pirates—every character is colorful and the more prominent characters are well-developed. Peter and Molly are both very likable and are realistically portrayed. For example, they act bravely but admit to being afraid. They also admit when they make mistakes and learn the importance of working together.

While Peter and the Starcatchers shows the importance of working together, its biggest successes are its wonderful cast of colorful characters and a nonstop, zig-zag plot that is packed full of adventure. This is not a traditional Peter Pan stories, but a delightfully creative take on the original tale. Readers will enjoy when aspects of the original story (mermaids, a crocodile, and a one-handed pirate) are revealed. While there are sequels, all of the main story lines are neatly tied up in this book, allowing readers to decide if they want to be satisfied with this adventure or reach for another.

 Sexual Content

  • Peter overhears Molly’s governess and Mr. Slank in a cabin. Molly’s governess says, “Oh, Mr. Slank! . . . You are a devil!” To which Slank replies, “’That I am . . . And you know what they say! . . . the devil take the hindmost!’ Then Peter hears Mrs. Bumbrake emit a very un-governess-like squeal, followed by what sounded like a slap, followed by some thumping, then more squealing, then more thumping and then much laughing.”
  • The pirate Black Stache has a secret weapon called “The Ladies.” Instead of normal sails on his pirate ship, “the sky above the pirate ship was filled with an enormous black brassiere—an undergarment of fantastic size, as if made for a giant woman. The twin mountains of fabric, funnel-shaped, pointed and bulged ahead of the breeze.”
  • Peter meets a mermaid. “She did not appear to be wearing any clothes, her only covering coming from her lush cascade of hair. Ordinarily this second thing would have gotten Peter’s full attention, but he was much distracted by the third thing, which was blood seeping from a deep gash in her forehead.”
  • A mermaid saves Peter from drowning. “Her mouth was touching his mouth, and—the strangest thing—her breath was becoming Peter’s breath.

Violence

  • Grempkin, a man from the orphanage, likes cuffing boys on the ear when they annoy him. “ ‘OW!’ said Thomas, upon being cuffed a second time by Grempkin.”
  • Slank, the man in charge of Peter’s ship, also likes cuffing boys’ ears. “
  • When a man tries to abandon ship, a guard stops him with a whip. The man “had taken perhaps three long strides when the whip cracked . . . and wrapped itself around this man’s ankle like a snake. The sailor crashed to the deck . . . [Slank] drew back his leg and kicked the would-be escapee hard in the ribs.”
  • Molly tells Peter about His Royal Highness, King Zarboff the Third, and how, “if you don’t salute with these three fingers when you say his name, and he finds out, he has these very fingers cut off.”
  • When pirates board Molly’s father’s ship, the captain’s “men fought courageously, but the pirates outnumbered them two to one. He could not stomach watching his men be slaughtered in a hopeless cause.” The captain surrenders.
  • Molly and Peter try to throw the trunk with the treasure overboard. “Molly screamed as Slank, grabbing her by her hair, yanked her away from the trunk. Peter lunged forward, grabbed Slank’s arm, and sank his teeth into it, tasting blood. Now it was Slank’s turn to scream.”
  • Pirates board Peter’s ship, and Molly defends the trunk. “She lunged toward Stache, her green eyes blazing with fury. Before Stache could react, she had knocked him away from the trunk, her hands clawing at his face . . . his screams mingling with the roars of the giant, who had lunged forward to grab the escaping girl, only to be attached by the pirates who’d been watching him.”
  • Peter’s ship sinks in a storm. “The Never Land broke apart, whole sections of the deck tearing loose, the masts splintering like twigs. A crewman was pitched, screaming, into the sea; he was followed by another, and then another.” The boys manage to climb into a dory and survive.
  • Slank and his giant crewman, Little Richard, try to steal the trunk from mermaids. “The instant he moved, another she-fish . . . hissed and darted forward, snakelike, opening her own hideous mouth and clamping her needle-sharp teeth down on his right forearm. Slank whirled to shoot it, but Little Richard, bellowing in pain, moved faster; he brought his massive left fist down on the she-fish’s head. She emitted a blood-chilling screech and fell away into the dark water.” The struggle is described over two pages.
  • The mermaids attack again. “The water boiled ominously around them. Little Richard screamed as he was bitten on his right leg, then his left.” Little Richard survives.
  • Slank crashes the dory into a mermaid. “The bow lifted slightly, avoiding a direct collision with the trunk, but striking the defiant mermaid. Slank felt the thud in his feet. That’s one less to worry about.” The mermaid is knocked unconscious.
  • Slank holds a mermaid captive, “holding the knife at her neck.” The other mermaids try to rescue her. “From time to time the knife cut, or the whip connected, each time drawing a scream. The water around the longboat grew cloudy with blood. But the mermaids kept coming, coming, frothing the water around the unsteady longboat.” The fight is described over two pages.
  • Peter is knocked unconscious. “The clublike wooden handle of Little Richard’s whip, two feet of two-inch-diameter oak, slammed into Peter’s skull from behind. Peter instantly crumpled to the shallow water, unable to break his fall, and lay face down, motionless.”
  • Peter and Molly attack Slank with coconuts. “Blood streaming down his face, Slank lunged to his feet, flailing his arms as he staggered toward the lagoon, the children still clinging to his back and bashing him with coconuts.”
  • Slank threatens Molly with a knife, “leaving a thin line of blood on Molly’s neck.”
  • Molly fights to escape. “Slank grunted in pain as Molly drove her left heel into his nose, blood spurting instantly, the shock weakening his grip just enough for Molly to yank her right foot free of his grasp.”
  • When Peter jumps out of the way of Black Stache’s sword, Black Stache accidentally kills Fighting Prawn, the leader of the island natives. “In fact, [Peter] flew straight up, but so quickly did he launch himself that Stache never really saw it, and thus had no chance to stop the thrust of his sword, which continued right through, plunging deep into the chest of Fighting Prawn.”
  • Peter duels with Black Stache. “Peter twisted his body and shot to his right, and as he did he switched his knife to his left hand and slashed downward with it, and it happened too fast for him to see, but he could feel it as he flashed past, feel the knife finding a target, and then, as he shot upward, he heard the scream, and turned to look down upon the vision of Black Stache, holding his sword in his right hand, and looking in horror at the bleeding stump where the left had been.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Alf, a sailor, often desires grog (rum mixed with water, a popular sailor drink). “Are we done, then? . . . Because I could use some grog.”
  • The captain of the Never Land is known to have “never bothered to learn even the basics of seamanship, choosing instead to occupy his time consuming vast quantities of rum.” He is never shown drinking but he appears several times, stumbling around and giving nonsensical orders to the crew.
  • A sailor claims a spell was cast on him to make him fall asleep. Another sailor scoffs. “Not hardly. Too much rum, that’s your magic spell.”
  • The men on watch “found some rum somewhere” and are “flat on their backs, snoring.”
  • Peter plans to put the man on watch to sleep, by spiking his food with rum. “Peter was still not sure exactly what rum was, but he knew two things about it . . . The first was that sailors loved to drink it, and gulped it down whenever they had any. The second was that it made them sleep.” He knows the cook has a barrel of rum because “the cook spent far more time drinking rum than cooking.”
  • When pirates board, Slank tells them, “We have a few women . . . And plenty of rum. But if you think there’s treasure on this old scow, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.”

Language

  • A man tells Peter that his ship will be traveling for five weeks, “If a storm doesn’t blow you halfway to hell.”
  • Slank asks, “What the dickens are you doing?”
  • The pirates often call each other names, such as “bag of lice.”
  • Idjit is used several times. Captain Stache shouts, “I DON’T WANT YOUR BLEEDIN’ HAND, YOU IDJIT! . . . I WANT THE BLEEDIN’ SPYGLASS.”
  • Moron is used once. A pirate says, “You rock-headed, lobster-brained MORON!”
  • Peter calls Molly a rat, after she threatens to tattle on him.
  • Molly’s father thinks “damn” when he hears pirates are coming, and thinks “damn” again when someone nearly catches him.
  • Devil is used a few times. To distract a giant crocodile, Alf shouts, “COME ON, YOU DEVIL!” Slank later calls the mermaids “she-devils.”

Supernatural

  • A magic trunk does strange things to people who touch it. When Alf touches it, “Alf could see light now, swirling around his head, colors and sparkles, moving to music, dancing to the sound of . . . bells, yes, it was bells, tiny ones, by the sound of them.”
  • Peter sees “a rat floating in midair. Peter blinked his eyes, but there was no question: the rat was suspended in space, as if hanging from a string, but there was no string. As Peter and the guard stared at the rat, it waved its legs slowly, almost languidly, as if swimming, and began to drift toward the doorway.”
  • Starcatchers are “a small group of people . . . There have been Starcatchers on Earth for centuries, Peter. Even we don’t know how long. But our task is always the same: to watch for the starstuff, and to get to it, and return it, before it falls into the hands of the Others.” The Others misuse starstuff to gain power.
  • Starstuff is golden dust that sometimes falls from the sky as meteors and “has amazing power . . . Wonderful power. Terrible power. It . . . it lets you do things . . . It’s not the same for everybody. And it’s not the same for animals as for people.” Starstuff can heal, can make people fly, can make people strong. Molly explains that larger quantities are more dangerous and can kill a person, or turn a fish into a mermaid, horses into centaurs, and other transformations.
  • Starcatchers have learned the language of porpoises, which are extremely intelligent creatures. They work together often to find any starstuff that falls in the ocean. Molly speaks with a porpoise several times, in their language of clicks and squeaks.
  • Some fish are turned into mermaids by starstuff. “They were changing. And fast. They still had their tails, though these had grown longer and more graceful. In their midsections, their bodies narrowed and their skin changed abruptly, from rough green scales to a white, fleshy smoothness. . . a distinct head appeared, separating from the trunk by a slender neck. . . The mouth became smaller, and a bulge of flesh started to protrude above it; ears were sprouting on each side of the head.”
  • Molly’s father turns a bird into a fairy, to watch over Peter. “The fairy, in a shimmer of gold, sprang from Leonard’s hand and darted to Peter, flitting around his head, filling his ears with her magical bell sounds.”

Spiritual Content

  • Molly tells Peter that there seems to be a larger battle going on in the universe over the possession of starstuff. “‘Just as we have the Others and the Starcatchers here on Earth, there seems to be something similar going on up there.’ [Molly] pointed toward the sky.”

by Morgan Lynn

 

Stowaway!

When Wally meets a band of puppy pirates, he wants more than anything to join them. He knows that puppy pirates are very tough and very brave. Even though he doesn’t always feel brave, Wally is determined to find out if he has what it takes to become a full-fledged puppy pirate. But when he stows away in a pirate ship, he finds out that he’s not the only one hiding. A friendly boy named Henry has also stowed away on the ship. The two promise to help each other. Will the two new friends be able to convince the ship’s captain that they are brave enough to be a pirate?

The front cover art shows an adorable picture of a pirate puppy, which will draw readers to the book. Nevertheless, the story’s plot is full of humor and suspense that will keep readers engaged until the very end. In a series of tests, both Wally and Henry prove that they can be useful to the ship’s crew. And with the help of Old Salt, an older pirate, Wally is able to be brave.

Younger readers will understand Wally’s desire to find a home and cheer for him as he makes friends with the boy and the pirates. Even though Wally is often scared, he still finds a way to complete difficult tasks. There are no other humans on the ship, but Wally stands up for Henry and the ship’s captain allows the boy to remain on the ship. The exciting conclusion has a riddle, kitten pirates, and a funny conflict.

Stowaway is pure pirate fun that will entertain readers who dream of adventure. The black and white illustrations are adorably cute and will also help readers understand the story’s plot. With short chapters, large text, and illustrations every 1 to 5 pages, Stowaway is the perfect book for readers ready for chapter books. Young landlubbers will be eager to read the swashbuckling tale of Wally and the Salty Bone’s crew. With 6+ books in the series, the Puppy Pirates Series has plenty of adventure to entertain readers.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • In order to get the kitten pirates to sail away, the dogs trick them. “The puppy pirates’ cannon blasted out a powerful shot of water. It arched up into the air between the two ships, and then it rained down on the kitten pirates. The kittens all shrieked and hissed and ran for cover.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

 

Language

  • There’s some infrequent pirate name-calling such as scallywag, landlubber, and lazy bum.
  • The kitten captain calls a dog pirate a fleabag.
  • When the captain finds a stowaway, he says, “This is unpoopitable!”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Stormcaster

Pirate Evan Strangward has been hunted by Empress Celestine for most of his life. Being able to control the weather can only protect him for so long. Now, he’s looking to the Fells for allies to take the fight to the Empress. Evan must warn the queendom that Empress Celestine and her bloodsworn army won’t wait forever to invade.

After four years in Arden, Ash sul’Han is on his way back to his home in the Fells. It’s a chance to see his mother and sister, and all the friends he left behind. But once he finds out his sister, Lyss, was taken by Empress Celestine, he’ll stop at nothing to get her back and save the royal line. Ash might not trust Evan, but he needs the pirate’s help if he wants to infiltrate Celestine’s stronghold and end the war before it gets out of hand.

Stormcaster, the third entry in Chima’s Shattered Realms series, is a wonderful installment in this epic tale. The story primarily follows Evan Strangward and Ash sul’Han. Stormcaster goes back in time to show the beginning of Empress Celestine’s rise to power, as well as Evan’s reason for opposing her. Destin Karn’s backstory is also explored. While this backtracking is extensive, it’s a well-thought-out and interesting addition to the story.

When the backstories are caught up to the present, the rest of the main characters are reintroduced. Ash sul’Han, who was absent from the previous novel, is finally back in the picture. When he makes it home to his queen mother, he finds the world completely changed. Ash is a lovable character, who has matured from his rebellious stage. Now he is willing to do whatever it takes to protect his family. As he struggles to work his way back into a world he doesn’t recognize, Ash embodies the themes of maturity and loss.

Overall, Stormcaster is a fast-paced ride. Since most of the main characters are back in action, each chapter shows the reader another part of the world, creating a fleshed-out and believable setting. Luckily, the shifting views are easy to follow. The story focuses on bringing together most of the main characters, so they can plan how to stop Empress Celestine. Will Ash finally reunite with his sister? Will Evan be able to take down the Empress that’s been hunting him? Readers will find out in the final installment, Deathcaster.

Sexual Content

  • When Evan and his shipmate Brody look at Empress Celestine, Brody thinks she’s beautiful. Evan notices Brody “was gazing at the young captain in a way that he’d never looked at Evan.” Later, Evan thinks about his love life. “There were other, less complicated lovers in the ports on both sides of the Indio, boys who offered sweet kisses and warm embraces.”
  • Evan and Destin have an ongoing romance. While sitting close together, “Destin put his hand on Evan’s arm, setting his heart to flopping like a beached fish.” However, Destin is afraid of love. “He’d learned his lesson well—that love was as risky as mercy.” Evan thinks, “Do not fall for this dangerous, moody, mercurial boy. It will lead you to heartbreak or worse.”
  • After confiding in each other, Evan “gripped Destin’s coat, arched his body up, and kissed him firmly on the lips.”
  • Destin’s parents have a terrible relationship. Destin tells Evan that his father “kept pounding on my mother—trying to get her to admit to cheating on him. He didn’t want to believe I was really his.” Later on, Evan asks, “If he didn’t love her, then why couldn’t he just set her aside and marry someone else.”
  • When Ash’s mother, Raisa, speaks about her marriage, she says, “I’m glad, now, that I married young, so that Han and I had more time together. It was twenty-five years, but it just flew by.” Later, she tells Ash, “Falling in love in wartime is chancy, just like having children. We’ve had a lot of pain, but a lot of joy, all the same.”
  • Madeleine, younger sister to the new King Jarat, says, “They were talking about all the women they’d had, and would have. Jarat said Father never bedded a wolf, but he would, and even a wolf could be tamed.”

Violence

  • Destin and Evan talk about killing. Destin says, “Killing is always personal. It’s the second-most-intimate thing that can happen between two people.”
  • When Destin and Evan are captured by Destin’s father, the two are forced to fight each other. Evan punches Destin, and then, “Destin somehow wrenched free of his captors, lurched forward, wrapped his hands around Evan’s neck, and began to squeeze.”
  • Adrian talks with his mother, and thinks, “Your daughter Hanalea went into the borderlands, and was murdered. Your son went south, and became a murderer.”
  • Hal fights members of Celestine’s bloodsworn warriors. During the fight with a horselord, Hal “drove his sword beneath his rib cage, all the way to the hilt.” Later, Hal cuts off a man’s head. “The head splashed into the water, but the body continued to stagger around, spraying blood from its severed neck until it tripped over a rock slab and went down.”
  • One of Celestine’s bloodsworn cuts down an old man. “It seemed that one of them wasn’t moving fast enough, because his horselord guard unslung his blade and cut him down.”
  • Destin says his father beat his mother. Destin’s father, “beat her all the time. Half to death, once or twice. Sometimes at court, but mostly at his keep on the Bittersweet. He kept a full time mage healer to patch her up again.”
  • After Evan calls Destin’s father a monster, Destin says, “Oh, he is. He started beating me, too, once I was too big to ignore and still too small to defend myself. . . If I had to do it over again, I’d have opened his throat and stabbed him through the heart with a poisoned blade and cut off his head and hung it over my door.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Hal talks to his former subordinate, Bellamy, at a tavern. Bellamy orders a “Small beer. I’m on duty in a little while. On second thought, I’ll have bingo. A double.”
  • Lyss bumps into Breon. Breon tells her, “There’s a lot of rum around, if that’s appealing.”
  • Destin thinks about King Jarat and his entourage. “They were more than happy to take the young king under their tutelage in the study of drinking, hunting, dicing, wenching, and swordplay.”
  • One of King Jarat’s loyal men comes home drunk one night. Destin sees him as he “stumbled to the garderobe and unbuttoned his breeches, hurrying to unburden himself of excess ale.”

Language

  • Hell is used a few times. For example, when Evan first meets Destin, Destin tells him, “To hell with your bloody books.”
  • Damn is used occasionally. For example, when Evan thinks about his job as a shipmaster, he thinks, “He was damned by his own success.”
  • Bastard is used a few times. Once, “When Destin inquired about Lucky Faros, saying he’d heard good things about the young captain, Kadar had informed him that Faros was an ungrateful, greedy, unreliable bastard he should steer clear of.”
  • Kadar, the streetlord of Evan’s city, tells Destin, “Go suck the Breaker’s balls.”

Supernatural

  • Wizards, also known as mages, are commonplace.
  • Wizards and mages produce a power called “flash” constantly. Destin describes flash, “like a kind of magical vapor that dissipates as soon as it appears. Amulets allow us to accumulate enough to work significant charms. Power transfers to it through skin, when you touch it.”
  • Destin talks about amulets. “They’re used to store and control magical energy, something we call ‘flash.’ There are other magical tools as well, such as talismans to protect against magical attacks, all made by upland clans.”
  • A blood mage is a type of mage that uses blood in their spells. Brody, Evan’s subordinate, says, “They make people drink their blood, and turn them into slaves.”
  • Destin is a mage. Evan notes that Destin “had an entire menu of nuanced magic he could work using his amulet and specific words spoken in the wetland language. Power including immobilization, persuasion, interrogation, and the like.”
  • In Arden, magic is considered a sin. Destin tells Evan, “Back home, magic is considered to be the work of the Breaker, a misfortune, nonetheless, can be put to use for the greater glory of the crown.” He later says, “A mage is a precarious thing to be in the wetland empire, because of the church. The king finds us useful, but he is as changeable as spring weather when it comes to the tension between magic and religion.”
  • Evan is a stormlord, a mage that uses weather magic. When Destin attacked Evan, “A storm surge of magic welled up in him, and electricity crackled across his skin, as if the power that seethed beneath it was leaking out.” Later, Evan “didn’t consciously reach for power, but it came unbidden. Small whirlwinds erupted all around his feet, sucked up a mixture of sawdust and straw, flung it in the soldier’s face.”
  • Jenna is one of the magemarked, a group of people that have unique abilities even among mages. Destin tells Evan about Jenna’s abilities: “She claims to be clairvoyant—that she sometimes sees images of the future, sees people as they really are, or can tell when someone is lying.” Later, he also says, “She heals quickly, and is resistant to flame. In fact, she develops a kind of armor for protection.”

Spiritual Content

  • Kadar, Evan’s former employer, thinks about his gods. He thinks, “It seemed that Omari Kadar, street lord of the Tarvos waterfront, had been abandoned by the gods.”
  • Evan is worshipped by his Stormborn pirate crew. “In the space of four years he’d gone from being a kind of shipboard mascot to being ‘Lord Strangward,’ the central deity of a Stormborn cult.”
  • When Evan and Destin get a new ship, Evan wants to perform a ceremony to the gods. Destin’s mother says, “I hope you don’t plan to sacrifice a goat and make us drink the blood. The goats, I need.”
  • When Ash tells Lila about his mistakes, she says, “If you want absolution, go to a speaker or priest. I’m hardly in a position to give you advice.”
  • Ash’s mother tells him, “Some speakers say that we must wait to be rewarded in the next life.”

by Jonathan Planman

The Outcasts

Hal never knew his father, a Skandian warrior. But unlike his esteemed father, Hal is an outcast. In a country that values physical strength over intellect, Hal’s ingenuity only serves to set him apart from the other boys his age. The one thing he has in common with his peers is Brotherband training. Forced to compete in tests of endurance and strength, Hal soon discovers he’s not the only outcast in this land of seafaring marauders—and that his battle for acceptance has just begun.

Hal and his best friend, Stig, have always felt like outsiders. People have looked down on Hal because he is half-Araluen, and they look down on Stig because his mother makes a living doing other people’s washing. When the two boys go to Brotherband training, Tursgud and Rolland choose their team members, and the eight boys who were not picked form the third Brotherband. Hal is chosen as the reluctant leader of the third Brotherband, the Herons.

As the three teams compete against each other, the Herons learn to help and rely on each other. While few people believe the Herons can be turned into warriors, Hal and his ragtag group find creative ways to defeat the other teams. Even though many of the Herons do not have physical prowess, each member of the Brotherband has an important role. Everyone—even a half-blind boy—can contribute. Through their experiences, readers will learn the importance of controlling their anger, working as a team, taking responsibility for their actions, and using their intelligence.

Middle school readers will relate to Hal and the other Herons as they fight to prove their worth. The story focuses on Hal, who is often criticized for his creative intelligence. However, it is this very intelligence that allows the Herons to win competitions. The Skandia society admires warriors who have strength, courage, and are not afraid of going to battle. These Skandian qualities allow the fast-paced story to have many exciting scenes as well as many descriptions of bullying and violence.

The connecting story arcs, difficult vocabulary, and huge cast of characters make The Outcast best for stronger readers. The conclusion connects all of the story arcs together and ends with a surprising twist. The Brotherband Series features several adults that also appear in the Ranger’s Apprentice Series. Despite this, readers do not need to read the Ranger’s Apprentice Series in order to understand the Brotherband Chronicles. Both series appeal to a wide audience because of the engaging plots, the likable characters, and the life lessons.

Sexual Content

  • The Herons are declared champions and, “Hal was delighted when a certain blond-haired girl slipped her arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips.”

Violence

  • During a raid, village soldiers go after the Skandians. One of the Skandian warriors “slammed the flat of his ax into the shoulder of the charging horse, throwing it off balance. As it stumbled, he drove forward with his shield, hitting the animal again and sending it reeling to one side.” The rider falls off and when the Skandian scares the man, he runs away.
  • As the Skandians are heading back to their ship, one warrior named Mikkel is injured by a spear. “The heavy iron head penetrated underneath Mikkel’s raised arm, burying itself deep in his upper body. He let go a small cry and fell to his knees, then crumpled sideways.” Mikkel dies from his injuries. The raiding scene is described over three pages.
  • A known bully, Tursgud, insults Hal and Hal’s mother. Hal “thrust forward and shoved both hands into Tursgud’s chest, sending the bigger boy stumbling and falling in the soft sand.” The bully “grabbed Hal’s shirt front in his left hand and drew back his right, fist clenched.” An adult breaks up the fight.
  • Pirates attack a group of cargo ships. When the pirates board one ship, the ship’s captain “hears the sounds of battle, axes and swords clashing against each other. . . He heard men shouting, heard the defiant war cries of the Rainbow’s crew.” The Rainbow’s crew was “murdered in a few brief seconds.”
  • The pirates board another ship, the Golden Sun. “The clash of weapons had died away and there was a series of splashes alongside. He [the captain] realized that the pirates were throwing the crews’ bodies overboard.”
  • The pirates overtake a third ship. The Skandian crew “smashed into the disorganized pirates, their heavy oaken shields used as weapons of offense, slamming into the pirates and hurling them to either side. The first rank of the pirates fell before the massive onslaught. The deck ran red with their blood. . .” The pirates throw the captain and his nephew overboard and kill the entire crew. The pirate scenes are described over 10 pages.
  • One of the boys misinterprets an instructor’s command. Next, the instructor “realized that the tree trunk-sized club was whistling through the air at blinding speed, and in the next half second would knock his head clean off his shoulders. With a startled yelp, he dropped flat on the still-wet ground, feeling the wind of the massive weapon as it passed over his skull, missing him by a few centimeters.”
  • Tursgud and his brotherband corner Hal. Hal “sent two lightning left jabs into Tursgud’s face, feeling the other boy’s nose crunch under the impact of the second, then stepped forward and hooked savagely with his right at the big boy’s jaw, hoping to end it there and then.” The last punch misses and the fight continues.
  • Tursgud’s friends grab Hal and hold him captive. “Hal’s ears were ringing and he realized that consciousness was slipping away from him. A hand grasped his hair and pulled his head up, sending tears flowing from his eyes with pain. . . the fist scrape painfully along the side of his face, tearing at his ear, so that blood started to trickle down his face.” By the end of the fight, Hal is semiconscious. The vicious fight takes place over six pages.
  • During the fight, Tursgud’s brotherband ties up Stig, stopping him from helping Hal.
  • One of the brotherband’s competitions is a wrestling match. During a match between Bjorn and Stig, Bjorn throws insults. Stig angrily attacks, which allows Bjorn to pin him. Bjorn “raised his right foot and placed it in Stig’s belly. At the same time, he fell smoothly back onto the grass, then straightened the leg, adding his left leg to the thrust as he rolled backward into the grass.” Bjorn was able to pick up Stig and “the Herons’ representative flew for several meters, landing heavily on his back with an ugly thud that drove the air out of his lungs.” There are three wrestling matches that are described over sixteen pages.
  • During a competition, Stefan mimics Tursgud’s voice in order to confuse Tursgud’s brotherband. When Tursgud sees Stefan, Tursgud runs after him. Tursgud “rapidly overtook Stefan and hurled himself on him, driving him to the ground. Stefan curled in a half ball, elbows and knees up to protect himself from the wild punches Tursgud was throwing.” An instructor breaks up the fight.
  • Pirates sneak into town and kill two of the town watch. Someone reports, “Their throats had been cut.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Thorn becomes a drunk after his best friend dies in battle. At one point, Thorn “had become so drunk the previous night that he had lost his way while heading back to the boatshed where he lived. He had crawled into the shelter of the wall, out of the wind, and laid down, vaguely hoping to die.” While Thorn stops drinking in chapter two, others often talk about his drunkenness.
  • After his friend’s death, Thorn became depressed and looked “for comfort in an ale or brandy tankard. There was very little comfort in either, but there was oblivion, and a strong drink helped him forget his loss, albeit temporarily.”
  • After the Herons are forced to surrender their title, Thorn thinks about Hal’s dismal future and he wants to drink. He gets a strong brandy that was hiding in his room. He is able to resist the temptation because he realizes, “If he drank himself insensible, he would eventually wake up. And this situation would not have changed.” His struggle is described over three pages.
  • A ship was carrying “valuable goods—oil, wool, fleeces, and brandy.”
  • A pirate ship lands in Skandia; the ship is carrying wine.
  • When the Herons are declared champions, the town throws a celebration and many of the adults drink ale.

Language

  • The Skandians often use their gods’ names as exclamations. For example, when someone sees a drunk, Hal says, “Oh, by Gorlog’s claws and nostrils, Mam! He stinks.” Later, someone uses “Gorlog’s breath” as an exclamation.
  • Someone uses “Gorlog and Orlog” as an exclamation. Orlog “was Gorlog’s lesser-known brother, only invoked in moments of great stress or surprise.”
  • When two brothers argue they call each other names such as a “bowlegged monkey,” “ugly gnome,” and “numbskull.”
  • A boy calls Thorn an “old wreck” and a “dirty old cripple.”
  • While fighting, someone calls Tursgud a coward and another boy calls him “coward scum.” As Tursgud punches Hal repeatedly, his brotherband yells, “Kill him! Kill him!”
  • Hal is often reminded that he is half Araluen. One boy calls him an “Araluen weasel.” Later, another boy calls him a “mongrel.”
  • The characters call each other idiots a few times. For example, Hal yells at two arguing brothers, “You blasted, blithering idiots. . .”
  • When an instructor sees two brothers arguing, he tells the group leader, “Gorlog help you if they’re always like that.”
  • An adult calls someone a fool.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • The Skandians believe “if a sea wolf died in battle without a weapon in his hand, his soul would wander in the netherworld for eternity.”
  • Gorlog “was one of the second rank of Skandian gods, like Ullr the hunter or Loki the liar, although unlike them, Gorlog had no specialized skills.”
  • When Hal saw a boy fell, he “breathed a silent prayer of thanks” because the boy’s fall ensured Hal’s brotherband would not be punished.
  • Stig calls Thorn a “broken down tramp.” Later Stig apologizes. When Thorn accepts the apology, Stig says, “Well, praise Gorlog for that!”
  • While getting ready to sail, Hal tells one of his team members, “ ‘All right Ingvar, pull as if Hulde herself was on your heels.’ Hulde was the goddess of the dead, and definitely not someone you would ever want close behind you.”
  • After the Herons fail at protecting an ancient relic, someone says, “Orlog curse the lot of you!”
  • When the Herons leave Skandia, someone says, “ ’May Ullr guide you.’ Ullr was the god of hunters.”

All Paws on Deck

In the first book of the series, Haggis and Tank set sail. Haggis and Tank go on a pirate adventure. They talk like pirates, swab the deck, and even search for buried treasure! But then, a giant sea serpent starts chasing their pirate ship. Will Haggis and Tank ever make it home?

Any child who has ever pretended to go on an adventure will relate to Haggis and Tank who use their imagination to sail away on a pirate ship. During their adventure, the two friends must come up with creative solutions to problems. Throughout the adventure, Haggis and Tank use pirate talk and cleverly weave homophones into their speech which adds humor. For example, when Haggis is trying to teach Tank how to tie knots, Tank wants to learn “forget-me-nots.”

Haggis and Tank’s adventure is illustrated in brightly colored panels. Much like a graphic novel, some of the pages only have quote bubbles. In order to move the story along, 1-2 sentence narration is included on some of the pages. The illustrated story is funny, imaginative, and full of surprising details. In addition, the heart-warming conclusion shows that “the real treasure is right here at home.”

Younger readers will laugh as Haggis and Tank take to the sea and overcome some unexpected difficulties. All Paws on Deck is part of Scholastic’s early chapter book line called Branches which is aimed at newly independent readers. With 1-3 sentences on each page, independent readers can read the story to themselves. The story ends with five questions and gives page numbers to help readers take a closer look at the text. All Paws on Deck will amuse both children and parents. Both the pirate talk and wordplay make All Paws on Deck perfect for reading aloud. Younger readers will want to join Haggis and Tank’s next adventure, Howl at the Moon. Readers who enjoy adventure-loving dogs will also want to read the Safari Pug Series by Laura James.

.Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Tank calls Haggis a “landlubber.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Lintang and the Pirate Queen

Lintang loves her family, but she doesn’t want to be a homemaker. Lintang dreams of leaving her island home. She longs to go on dangerous and daring adventures. When she meets the infamous pirate, Captain Shafira, Lintang wants to join her crew. When she gets her chance, Lintang promises to follow orders. However, Lintang’s curious, impulsive attitude always gets her into trouble.

Lintang discovers that living on a pirate ship can be difficult. Her loyalties are divided when she finds that her best friend, Bayani, has stowed away and is desperate to stay hidden. Lintang knows that Bayani is hiding a secret that could change the world. However, she has promised the pirate queen that she will never lie to her. How can Lintang impress the pirate queen and keep Bayani’s secret at the same time?

Readers will relate to Lintang, who has a difficult time following orders. Despite her best intentions, Lintang gets into trouble time and time again. When Lintang is demoted to a cabin girl, she gains the crew’s respect through her positive attitude and work ethic. During her voyage, Lintang “had turned into Lanme Vanyan (the mother of all monsters), faced a Kanekonese siren, fought a dragon, almost drowned twice, battled a sea serpent, [and] worked as a cabin girl.”

Moss creates a beautiful world full of mythies. Some mythies are friendly and others are deadly. In order to introduce the different creatures, many of the chapters being with a page from The Mythie Guidebook, which describes each type of mythie. The information describes how to eradicate the mythie, their behavior, danger level, and provides a description.

Lintang and the Pirate Queen has non-stop action as Lintang, Captain Shafira, and her crew embark on a dangerous journey where they fight fearsome monsters. The story ends in an epic multi-chapter battle that has many surprises. Because of the complex world, the complicated plot, and the large cast of characters, Lintang and the Pirate Queen is best for strong readers. However, adventure-loving readers will love this tale of friendship and adventure.

Sexual Content

  • Lintang tells a legend about Pero, who “was not afraid of the Goddess of Death.” When he left home, he “packed his bag, said goodbye to his mother, kissed the barmaid, and left.”
  • Avalon is transgender. One of the ship’s crew treats him unkindly. She says, “Avalon pretends she is a boy. I remind her she is not.”

Violence

  • While walking in the forest, Lintang and Bayani are attacked by a malam rasha. “A night terror (malam rasha) is a humanoid forest mythie in the predator category. It appears as a woman with wooden skins, long dark hair, and a white dress. Instead of arms, it has tree roots, which are sharp enough to dig through flesh.” Bayani’s fey friend, Pelita, helps. “Before it could attack, a ball of white light zipped in front of its face. The malam rasha recoiled, snarling.” Lintang raised her sword and the “malam rasha reared up. It moved to strike with its arm of tree roots, but she stabbed and it retreated. Slash. Dodge. Stab. Dodge. . . Lintang ran to Bayani, shoved him to the ground, and threw herself over him.” When the two are laying on the ground, someone chases the mythie away. The fight scene takes place over four pages.
  • The malam rasha goes to the temple and goes after Lintang. “The mythie barreled into her. She landed on the stone floor, winded. Pelita fluttered out of the way just in time. The malam rasha curled its lip and slashed at Lintang’s stomach. . . The malam rasha tried again, clawing and tearing until the front of Lintang’s sarong was in tatters.” Panna leaves that were smeared on Lintang protected her. Captain Shafira jumped in to help. “Captain Shafira aimed sword blows at the malam rasha so fiercely that it was forced to retreat.” The Captain’s crew assists her in capturing the malam rasha. “Captain Sharfira brought her sword down and chopped off its arm. It released an earsplitting shriek.” The battle is described over three pages.
  • Once the malam rasha is captured, Captain Shafira “directed a kick to the malam rasha’s wooden head, and it slumped, unmoving.” Later when the light of day appears, the mythie “burst into flames, leaving only a silhouette of ash and the broken fishing net.”
  • A predator mermaid uses her power to make Lintang jump into the sea. “Stinging spread across her body, from both the impact and the chill. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore. She was with the mermaids now.” The mermaids try to pull Lintang deeper into the ocean. “Splinters sliced at Lintang’s lungs. Her head felt light. . . She barely noticed the flash of steel, or the clouds of blood in the water, or the fact that the mermaids had released their deadly grip.” Lintang is saved. The scene is described over a page.
  • When leaving the island, Nyasamdra picks up Captain Shafira’s ship. Nyasamdra “let them float in the air. She watched them swirl inside the bubble, her face childlike with curiosity.” Trying to help, a “bird darted past Nyasamdra’s fingers and pecked the bubble. There was a pop, and everyone had to hold on as the ship plummeted back into the waves.” Bayani comes above deck and gives Nyasamdra the correct tribune, then she lets them pass. The scene is described over four pages.
  • A sea serpent attacks Captain Shafira’s ship. The huge serpent tries to break the ship up by squeezing it. “Lintang acted without thinking. She raced forward and shoved a harpoon into the serpent’s mouth to wedge it open. The serpent started to snap but stopped as the dragon’s claw dug into the roof of its mouth and sprayed blood across the deck.” One of the crew members “swung out on a rope, caught the harpoon with one hand, and used the dragon talon to slash the serpent through the neck.” Lintang is injured. The fight is described over three pages.
  • When Governor Karnezis tries to get Lintang to give up Captain Shafira’s location, Lintang tries to escape. “. . . Governor Karnezis snatched her hair. She cried out as he yanked her backwards.” Lintang uses a dart to put the governor to sleep. Captain Shafira and her crew help Lintang escape.
  • Farah and her family helped Captain Shafira when she was injured. The Vierzan counsel sent “people to kill Farah’s family and burn the place down.”
  • While under the sirens’ spell, Avalon attacks a crewmember, Mei. “Avalon lunged. He wrapped his arm around Mei’s throat. . .Mei strained to pull his arm from around her neck. Her round cheeks turned pink. She was suffocating.” A crew member hits Avalon over the head with a frying pan, causing him to pass out.
  • Captain Shafira boards Captain Moon’s ship and the two fight with swords. “The two thrust and parried, each as skilled as the other. A few clashing blades and a clever maneuver later, they’d switched positions. . . Captain Shafira managed to kick Captain Moon’s ankle, dropping her to one knee. Captain Moon blocked an attack while she was down, then stabbed forward so violently that Captain Shafira had to jump two steps down the staircase. . .” When the sirens threaten both ships, the two captains work together.
  • The ship’s dragon awakens. Captain Shafira and Captain Moon bait the dragon, causing it to tear down a locked door.
  • At one point in the fighting, Bayani is “standing on the bridge with the spear side of the khwando pointed at Zazi’s neck.”
  • Lintang jumps in the ocean, then turns into the mother of monsters named Lanme Vanyan. Lanme attacks a dragon. Lanme “sprang, clamping her hands on the dragon’s shoulder. It tried to toss her aside, but she held on and slashed at its wings. They twisted in the air like a whirlwind.” She flings the dragon away and then attacks a siren. “Lanme zipped toward it and bit it beneath the arm. . . The siren tried to crush her with its free hand. She bit its fingers. Bubbles hissed from its mouth, but it didn’t pull back.” The siren swims away.
  • The dragon returns and attacks Lanme again. Lanme “whipped her tail into the air, wrapped it around the dragon, and slammed it onto the waves. The dragon shuddered with the impact, then floated, stunned.” Then, Lanme turns back into a human.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • The Vierzans developed a medicine that “kills dangerous things in your body. Stops illnesses, disease; you name it, the Curall fixes it.” When Pelita is sprayed with Curall, she glows brighter. “Pelita’s squeaks turned into tiny shrieks. She sounded like she was in pain. . . And then, as swiftly as a sneeze, a human body burst out of the pixie. A girl lay in Pelita’s place, an Islander barely ten years old.”

Language

  • While practicing sword fighting, Lintang says to her best friend, “You ebony-nosed loobatoon! You brown-tailed barbanees! You blood-eyed ruberrince!”
  • “By the Gods” is used as an exclamation four times.
  • When Lintang scares the ship’s cook, she says, “Mother of monsters, you scared the petticoats off me!”
  • Someone calls another character a gnome.

Supernatural

  • Lintang’s world has various mythies, such as sirens, propheseeds, mermaids—both predator and friendly types. For example, “Propheseeds are sky mythies that take the form of three glowing dandelion seeds. They appear harmless, giggling childishly, and do not physically attack. . . The propheseeds will say your name three times, then, in a form of a riddle or rhyme, give you the time and details of your imminent death.”
  • Those born on the twin Islands have “small, shiny fish scales” on the back of their necks. A ship can only leave the island if they have someone from the Twin Islands. But the island’s mythie guardian Nyasamdra drowns ships “that tried to leave her territory unless they carried someone with her mark.”
  • Sirens are predator mythies. “Like the common siren, it calls for males, but unlike the common siren, it gives power to its victims, making them strong and violent, unable to think of anything but getting close to the mythie.”
  • Mythies did not appear in Lintang’s world until “shooting stars had passed overhead when the mythies arrived. No one knew why the Three Gods had sent the mythies. The creatures had caused havoc throughout the world, but the priest always said in serene voices that the Gods had reasons for everything they did, even if humans could not understand them.”
  • One of the characters is a talking clamshell.
  • Lintang turns into the mother of monsters named Lanme Vanyan.

Spiritual Content

  • People believe in Ytzuam, which is “high above, past the clouds, past the sun, there’s a world in the stars. . . It’s separated from our world by a single thick curtain. There are three Gods who live there: Niti, Patiki, and Mratzi.”
  • As Lintang walks she sees the temple, which makes her think about the gods. “Lintang used to learn about the Gods from the priest there when she was younger, but the only time she visited now was during seasonal festivals.” The three gods are Neti, the creator of the stars, Patiki, the planter of stars, and Mratzi, the harvester of stars.”
  • When Lintang accidentally sets the house on fire, she needs water fast. “Their offerings to the Three Gods had been freshly lain on the stone alter that morning. She reached between a scattering of juicy bubleberries and thin, smoldering sticks of mollowood to take the earthen jug.” She uses the water to help fight the flames.
  • When Lintang fights the malam rasha, she was “praying to the Three Gods that her plan would work.” Then she “dredged up a memory of a prayer from temple. ‘Hear me, Niti, Patiki, Mratzi—Gods of Ytzuam, givers of life, guardians of stars. Please protect us, please don’t let the malam rasha eat us.”
  • People believe that when someone dies, they continue to live. Lintang thinks about her dead grandfather. “Lintang hoped her grandfather’s star, blazing high in the sky” was not ashamed of her.
  • Bayani had died and Mratzi told him that the mythies were human. She then allowed him to return to the living.
  • Lintang trusted the Pirate Queen, but then “prayed to Niti she wasn’t wrong.” Later, when the Pirate Queen decides to stay with Lintang until she gets to her destination, Lintang “sent a silent prayer of thanks to the Gods.”
  • In Vierzan, the people have destroyed the Gods’ monuments because “they think the Gods sent mythies to wipe humans out. . . Now they refuse to pray or build temples or leave offerings.”
  • When Lintang must jump off a building, Bayani thinks she is injured. When he discovers that she is fine, he says, “Thank the Gods, thank the Gods—”
  • When almost drowning, Lintang sees a vision. Shooting stars crashed “through a field of unplanted seeds. . . the impact of the shooting stars scattered seeds throughout the world. . . She saw a man unwittingly absorb one of the star seeds, then he burst apart as a gnome sprang from him.” The vision shows Lintang how humans became mythies.
  • Lintang turned into a mythie.

Pirate Pedro

It’s Pirate Day at school, and Pedro and his mates have so much fun pretending to be pirates at school, they take the game home. The only problem? They all want to be captain of the ship.

The chapter book Pirate Pedro is written with simple vocabulary that beginning readers will be able to master. Each page contains four or fewer sentences as well as colorful pictures, which include a diverse cast of characters. The story contains fun pirate facts and new pirate words and sayings like “shiver me timbers!”

After the story ends, readers can continue the pirate fun by reading two pages of pirate jokes. The story also has a glossary, questions, and writing prompts. Pirate Pedro engages young readers by using interesting characters who have relatable problems. Pirate Pedro will help independent readers improve their skills and become confident readers. Although Pirate Pedro is part of a series with many of the same characters, it doe not need to be read in order. Readers who enjoy the Pedro series should also try the Katie Woo series because it has many of the same characters and is written in the same format.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic

Time collided. Now dinosaurs roam with robots. Humans from three different time periods now live on Earth. Diego’s parents come from two different time periods and hope to make their home, New Chicago, a better place.

In Diego’s world, conflict is ever-present. Not everyone believes that kids from different eras of history and from different cultures should interact. Some still wish for the world that they came from before time collided.

When Diego’s father, a New Chicago’s top engineer, is taken by rebels, Diego vows to help free his father. Diego thinks the key is to build bigger, stronger weapons. However, when he and three others accidentally end up on a pirate ship, Diego’s beliefs are challenged.

Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic gives the reader a glimpse of the struggles others faced during different eras, which gives the story interest. The story doesn’t just focus on how boys and girls often do not understand each other, but also how people from different cultures can also have conflict.

Although the story is full of action and has an epic battle scene, the violence is not described in great detail. Instead, sights and sounds are left to the reader’s imagination. Stunning illustrations enhance the story and help bring the new world to life. Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic is a story about friendship, family, and seeing others in a new way. In the end, Diego learns that powerful weapons are not the key to keeping his world safe.

Sexual Content

  • Two boys have a sparring match and the winner gets a kiss from Paige. One of the boys says, “Sadly for you, only one lovely lady will get to know the thrill of these lips.” Later the winner describes the kiss, “But it wasn’t exactly a kiss. More like an attack on my face. Her lips were, like, strong.”

Violence

  • Diego and a group are cornered by a bully and his gang. Diego “Slammed Fish across the face with it (skateboard) and a girl ‘judo flipped’ a boy to the floor.”
  • A rebel group attacks a power plant and kidnap about a dozen engineers. “A marine lay on the floor nearby, unmoving . . . Shots. More gunshots. Fists colliding, the thump of bodies hitting the floor.” During the attack, a man holds a sword against Diego’s father’s throat.
  • Rebels attack a boat carrying some of the engineers’ families. “More pops. Splintering cracks. . . The gunfire seemed to come from everywhere . . . Bullets zinged past Diego’s head.” Diego’s mother shoots the rebel’s boat and it explodes.
  • When trying to escape from dinosaurs, Diego crashes his gravity board on a cliff. “The beast began to throw their massive bodies against the wall, trying to dislodge him.” Diego is rescued.
  • The rebels attack the pirate ship and the battle plays out over an entire chapter. The battle is not described in graphic detail.
  • The pirates, trying to save the engineers, attack the rebel’s base. The attack happens over several chapters. Diego shoots at one of the bad guys. When someone is injured, the description jumps in time, which allows the reader to imagine what happened. One of the characters is killed, but his death is not described.
  • When someone calls Diego a “clock mongrel,” Diego’s father hits him. “George spun and crumpled to the floor.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • A boy “sucked on his cigarette, the end glowing. . .”
  • The pirate captain is seen asleep with a half-empty bottle of vodka and Diego assumes he is drunk.

Language

  • Profanity is used rarely, but includes bastards, crap, crud, damn, hell, holy crap, and pisses.
  • When Lucy is saved from a dinosaur, she said, “Oh my God, I thought I was done for!” She uses this phrase twice.
  • When Diego finds out that pirates have been hired to find his father and the other engineers, Diego said, “Hell, I should be allowed to go before some hired guns.”
  • When Diego tells his friend about the pirates, his friend replies, “bloody hell!”
  • The rebel group is referred to as “bastards.”
  • When Paige makes a meal, the available food is referred to as “nasty crap.”
  • According to Diego, one of the girls acts like “everything I do pisses her off.”

Supernatural

  • Diego and his father have “the Maker’s Sight,” which allows them to see how different machine parts work together. “It shows me a series of images that allow me to make or fix anything.”
  • Diego wills baby turtles to surround Lucy. He explains how he did it. “It’s more like I can send them a thought, feeling, or image, and they seem to . . . act on it. It’s like hypnosis, I think.”
  • When describing “the Maker’s Sight,” Diego’s friend said, “You sound like one of those spiritual mediums we have back in London, communicating with the dead through their crystal balls.”

Spiritual Content

  • During a battle, the pirate captain said, “A prayer to your god of choice might also be helpful.”

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