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Feeling inspired by the "Wheneverland" Pirates and wanting more Yo Ho Hos!?

In need of ideas for your Christmas Shopping before old Santa goes?

Stocked up on your books by celebrity cooks, and had your fill of mince pie

Why not sample some pirate delights,... you could read them with even one eye!

Article by courtesy of Jean Harker


Two dip-into or read-straight-through books with lots of illustration and nuggets of information, both published by Dorling Kindersley, are:  Eye Wonder:  Pirates (allegedly for ages 5-8, £5-99p), or go straight to the more informative Eyewitness: Pirates, which comes with a CD and a wallchart (£7-99p).

FICTION  (Some of these titles are out of print, but they’re worth looking for in jumble sales and on, and worth haranguing publishers about.)

The Wonderful O by James Thurber, the story of a pirate’s search for treasure and his revenge on the letter O, removing anything containing it from his life (opals, moonstones, owls, noodles, etc.).  First published 1957, due to be republished by Random House in spring 2009, with illustrations by Marc Simont.  But look for the classic out-of-print Puffin illustrated by Ronald Searle (in one vol. with The 13 Clocks).  “For ages 5 to 95,” the reviews said.  Hilarious. 

The Pirates’ Mixed-Up Voyage by Margaret Mahy.  Who could resist the lure of a pirate ship called The Sinful Sausage (masquerading as a floating teashop) and the ship’s parrot Toothpick (in a cage bearing the notice PLEASE DO NOT GIVE RUM TO THIS BIRD), as the crew embark on a real pirate voyage?  This book is criminally out of print, as is Margaret Mahy’s The Great Piratical Rumbustification (in one vol. with The Librarian and the Robbers), illustrated by Quentin Blake.  But you can get Mahy’s picture-book The Man whose Mother was a Pirate from Puffin, and also The Very Wicked Headmistress from Barn Owl Books (no pirates, but you do get piano-movers).

Other picture-books are The Pirate Treasure Mapa Fairytale Adventure by Colin and Jacqui Hawkins and Jolly Roger and the Pirates of Captain Abdul by Colin McNaughton.

And Captain Pugwash is back!  (Did he ever go away?)  Several titles are in print.  Written and drawn by John Ryan, the adventures of the cowardly, boastful pirate Horatio Pugwash, along with his crew and Tom the ever-resourceful cabin-boy on board The Black Pig, and his arch-enemy the fearsomely-bearded Cut-Throat Jake, captain of The Flying Dustman, first appeared in the boys’ comic Eagle *, of blessed memory, and then appeared in several animated series on television.  The original animated series (up to the mid-1970s) were made by John Ryan and his family (read his account of the process at

*Footnote.  The story on the front cover of Eagle was Dan DarePilot of the Future.  If you weren’t a boy you had to put up with its sister-comic Girl, cover story:  Susan Marsh Nurse.  Even her surname was wet.  click on “Children’s TV Shows” and then on “Captain Pugwash”).  More information and appreciation at (click on “TV toons” and then on “Captain Pugwash”) and at (click on “Authors” and then use drop down list to click on John Ryan).  Captain Pugwash is also available on DVD.  But beware!!  The Complete Classic Captain Pugwash DVD is the BBC 1970s series animated by John Ryan, with paper levers, hand-colouring, and all voices by the wonderful Peter Hawkins, who had to be put behind a screen to read his script because he made everyone laugh so much (and he was also the original Dalek voice).  The DVD Captain PugwashSticky Moments and other Swashbuckling Adventures contains the recent computer-animated tv series voiced by assorted actors not including Peter Hawkins.

For the wackiest, most futuristic pirate-and-parrot combination, try to watch (available on DVD and old VHS) the 1978 Dr Who serial The Pirate Planet, featuring a semi-robotic pirate captain and his metal parrot – worth seeing if only for the parrot’s encounter with K9.  Never mind the wobbly sets – Douglas Adams wrote the script.

AND OF COURSE the pirate novel to end all pirate novels is Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, first published in 1883, and inspired by the map of an island which Stevenson’s stepson Lloyd Osbourne, then aged about 13, had drawn and was brightening up with watercolours.  RLS (who was a friend of J. M. Barrie) made up a story about the island, with pirates and buried treasure -- “No women,” Lloyd requested.  The story is set over 100 years earlier (sometime after 1745) and is narrated by Jim Hawkins, the boy who is caught up in the adventure of following a treasure-map.  The most famous character is the villainous one-legged pirate and ship’s cook Long John Silver, with a talking parrot on his shoulder.  Many film versions of Treasure Island have been made, and tend to be remembered for the actor who plays Long John Silver, e.g., Wallace Beery (1934), Robert Newton (1950, in the Disney version, largely responsible for the “Arrrrr, Jim lad” idea of Long John Silver, and filmed in England), Orson Welles (1972, generally regarded as a disaster, filmed in England, Spain and Italy), Charlton Heston (1990, with Christian Bale as Jim, and, as the ship the Hispaniola, the Bounty from the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty).  This last 1990 version, filmed in Devon, Cornwall and Jamaica, is reckoned to be the best of the bunch, though two more versions followed:  a 1999 version with Jack Palance as Long John Silver, filmed on the Isle of Man;  and – with Tim Curry as Long John Silver -- the inimitable Muppet Treasure Island (1996), which meant that one children’s literary classic would never be the same again.

Now watch the Cumnor Players give Peter Pan approximately the same treatment!!