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The Barefoot Book of Pirates Review by Susan K. Marlow

Retold by Richard Walker; illustrated by Olwyn Whelan
Barefoot Books
2067 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140

Pirates! The very word makes children perk up their ears in interest. There are plenty of books about this subject on the market, but The Barefoot Book of Pirates delivers a unique slant: it takes seven stories and legends about pirates from around the world and compiles them into a large (9 by 11 inch), colorfully illustrated volume, with read-along CD included. The narrator has the slightest hint of a British accent, which I found delightful. Within the 63 pages of this large-print (great for younger readers) book, I discovered tales about pirates from places like Japan and Morocco, as well as from the more familiar countries like England.

The last page of book contains the sources for the pirate tales. Some of the stories are based on adventures of real pirates; others are the inventions of storytellers from long ago. I can think of all kinds of extension "research" children could engage in if this book were included in a unit study on pirates. For starters, I'd have my children discover which stories are true adventures and which are legends. For writing exercises they could create their own legend of a pirate, based on research into other countries' pirate tales. This book would be a great way to jumpstart your unit study.

As much as I enjoyed The Barefoot Book of Pirates, I have to mention a caution. A few of the stories include the mysticism that normally surrounds much of folklore. The story "The Kobold and the Pirate" revolves around spirits protecting ships and popping in and out as occasion demands; "The Ship of Bones" has a Pirates of the Caribbean feel to it. However, if you want to discover where the saying "Your goose is cooked" originated, you'll enjoy "The Captain's Goose." Most of the stories teach a lesson in addition to telling a tale.

If you and your children love fairytales and have no trouble separating folklore from reality, or if you are Pirates of the Caribbean fans, then The Barefoot Book of Pirates will be a wonderful addition to your homeschool bookshelf.

Product review by Susan K. Marlow, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2008