cover image Pirates vs. Cowboys

Pirates vs. Cowboys

Aaron Reynolds, illus. by David Barneda. Knopf, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-85874-1

The collaborators behind Snowbots return with a tale that gleefully pokes fun at pirate and cowboy vernacular while demonstrating how difficult it can be to find common ground. When Burnt Beard, a surly octopus pirate, needs to stash some booty, he and his crew (which includes a turtle with an eye patch and a goldfish in a bowl) head to Old Cheyenne, territory belonging to Black Bob McKraw and “his gang of rip-roarin’ rustlers [who] were nastier than week-old chili, and twice as gassy.” Burnt Beard asks where they might “be findin’ a fair scrub and a swish,” and Black Bob, who doesn’t speak pirate, takes offense. After several silly trash-talking exchanges, “Pistols pointed. Swords flashed. Lips sneered. Nostrils flared” in a showdown; luckily, Pegleg Highnoon, “the world’s only pirate cowboy,” steps in as mediator. Reynolds’s tongue-twisting retorts are fun, but sometimes slow the story’s pace (and the absence of even one female character is surprising). However, Barneda’s cartoon-styled acrylic and pencil illustrations contribute abundant humor (one of the cowboys is a fierce potted cactus) and tension. Ages 5–8. Agent: Paul Rodeen, Rodeen Literary Management. (Mar.)