cover image Pirates' Mixed-Up Voyage

Pirates' Mixed-Up Voyage

Margaret Mahy. Dial Books, $13.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1350-5

Spurred on by their dreams of becoming real live pirates, Lionel Wafer and the rest of the staff of Ye Olde Pyratte Shippe Tea Shoppe weigh anchor for the Thousand Islands in order to kidnap wealthy inventor Humbert Cash-Cash and steal his legendary diamond doorknob. After near-fatal encounters with a witch and her man-eating firedrake husband, the pirates take time out to learn how to read at the villainous Dr. Silkwood's Academy. But the lure of the high seas proves irresistible, and the gang sets sail once again--accompanied by a handful of orphans, an amnesiac and their tough but kind-hearted teacher. Action and invention abound here, perhaps in excess; while the writing, attempting a high level of vivacity, verges instead on the glib. Particularly grating are the text's mock-scholarly footnotes and coy bits of dialogue: ``It's hard on a Doctor of Literature . . . when her reading lessons are interrupted by the police.'' This sort of brittle whimsy is not for all tastes; still, the combination of goofy, good-natured humor, cartoony characters and a convoluted mystery bears some resemblance to Roald Dahl's work, and is likely to appeal to fans of Ellen Raskin's The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel). Ages 9-12. (Apr. )