cover image The Pirate's Son

The Pirate's Son

Geraldine McCaughrean. Scholastic, $16.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-590-20344-9

Three children leave Georgian England for Madagascar in this colorful, episodic pirate yarn. When his father dies and his boarding school expels him for unpaid debts, 14-year-old Nathaniel Gull, a pious boy who has nonetheless dreamed of a pirate's life, is befriended by an older classmate, Tamo White, son of a notorious deceased pirate captain. Tamo offers to bring Nathan and his sister, ""mousy Maud,"" to his homeland, Madagascar. Maud is the most sympathetic of the three adventurers, and her story is also the most interesting. She blossoms in the little fishing village where the children settle, becoming fluent in the language and re-evaluating her beliefs. The boys respond differently: Nathaniel clings to his Christianity, while Tamo, told by a fortune-teller that he'll follow in his father's footsteps, becomes a pirate, doing battle with the corrupt traders who visit the village. A cast of raucous pirates creates a number of crises from which the clever children emerge victorious. Point of view shifts rapidly among the three characters (and even, occasionally, to the perspective of the villains), and readers who don't pay close attention could get a little disoriented. More than the plot, McCaughrean's (The Golden Hoard: Myths and Legends of the World) capacious and descriptive style is the biggest lure; her prose has the dramatic flair of an expert storyteller's. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)