PIRACY & PLUNDER: A Murderous Business

Milton Meltzer, Author, Bruce Waldman, Illustrator , illus. by Bruce Waldman. Dutton $24.99 (86p) ISBN 978-0-525-45857-9

"This book aims to tell the true story of pirates and piracy," writes Meltzer (Ten Queens: Portraits of Women of Power) in his foreword, and tell it he does, ripping the lid off the Errol Flynn–inspired, romantic version to expose the actual cruel and bloody history. From as far back as references in Homer's Odyssey to the Viking raiders and such larger-than-life figures as Blackbeard, Sir Henry Morgan and Captain Kidd, Meltzer offers a broad historical overview of crime on the high seas and explores the roots of what drove men (and women) to piracy—including unemployment, mutiny and simple greed. In a series of brief, easily digestible sections, the author paints a vivid picture of unsavory pirate life around the globe (from Chinese pirates to those who stalked the seas outside of Rome during the time of Spartacus in 73 B.C.). He reveals their code of conduct, connection to the slave trade and their thinly veiled alias as "licensed pirates" or privateers (with such renowned historical figures as Sir Francis Drake), and takes readers up through the modern-day, subtler form of piracy—the violation of international copyright laws. Meltzer aims this strong material at older readers—and it is not for the weak of stomach (there are vivid descriptions of some of the more gruesome forms of pirate torture, as well as a mention of gang rape). The book is very valuable in debunking the romantic myths that have grown up around this criminal society. Waldman's darkly evocative artwork, a somber swirl of line and color, effectively echoes the edgy tone of the text. Ages 10-up. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Genre: Children's
Discover what to read next