Are you celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day today? Here’s some fun pirate-based reading for you and your kids, as well as fun activity kit to get everyone in the mood. First, download the Walker Bean Pirate Kit and print it out, and your kids will have some pirate-themed word searches, hidden pictures, and complete-the-monster drawings. Plus there’s some fun stuff like the design-your-own pirate flag, an eye patch to cut out and wear, and making a treasure map of your neighborhood.
The activity kit is courtesy of Aaron Renier, the author and illustrator of The Unsinkable Walker Bean, a recently released comic book about pirates, monsters, and a mysterious pearl skull that everyone seems to be after. I first met Renier years ago at a tiny comics convention in Portland, Oregon, and picked up a copy of Spiral Bound, which is still one of my favorites. Spiral Bound featured talking animals, wonderful contraptions, and a mysterious monster at the bottom of a lake. Renier’s latest still includes the wonderful contraptions and some underwater beasts, but trades in the talking animals for sailors and pirates.
Walker Bean is a kid who has grown up on his grandfather’s tales of the evil Merwitch sisters and the destruction of Atlantis. They’re great tales, but of course nobody believed they were actually true. When Walker’s grandfather shows up with an unexplainable ailment, he admonishes Walker to take this pearl skull and return it to the Merwitches, or face dire consequences. But returning the skull isn’t an easy task—Walker stows away on a ship, is captured by pirates, and everyone seems to have their own designs for the skull.
The book is full of swashbuckling adventure and is a lot of fun, though it’s not an all-ages book the way Spiral Bound was. This one is recommended for ages 9 and up, partly for the reading level of the text but probably also because the lobster-bodied Merwitch sisters are pretty creepy. Still, once my daughter is a little bit older I’ll definitely share this one with her—I really enjoyed it and I think she would too. Walker is a fun hero—he’s just a kid so there are a lot of things he’s simply unable to do on his own, but he’s pretty clever and comes up with an ingenious scheme to trick an entire ship full of pirates. I hadn’t realized until the end of the book that this is only the first in a series, though it concludes on an ending note so it stands pretty well on its own.
Wired: Pirates, seafaring adventure, giant monsters, ingenious inventions, drawn by the talented Aaron Renier.
Tired: The pearl skull might give you flashbacks to the last Indiana Jones movie.
Disclosure: First Second Books provided a copy of the book for review.