cover image The Word Pirates

The Word Pirates

Susan Cooper, illus. by Steven Kellogg. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4359-8

Captain Rottingbones and his fellow swashbucklers don’t go after the usual kinds of plunder: with the help of feathered henchman called Bumblebirds, they steal words from unsuspecting storytellers around the world and gobble them up “for breakfast, lunch and dinner.” But one storyteller, “a Word Wizard, a zany New Zealander,” who wears a rainbow wig just like the late author Margaret Mahy (also the subject of the lovely dedication), fights back. She vanquishes the pirates (“A word-spinning pen is mightier than a pilfering pirate’s sword!” Cooper writes), then graciously gives them a fresh start: in the final pages, they’re eating vegetables and learning to use words rather than eat them. The story feels a touch prescriptive, a component that slows the pacing, but Kellogg’s signature art overflows with the color, movement, and expression of a vintage carnival poster. Ages 4–8. [em](Sept.) [/em]