While over in England last week, we were given many English picture books and young readers, the majority of which I've never seen over here. One of our favorites was Mungo and the Picture Book Pirates, by Timothy Knapman and Adam Stower (an American edition was published in September 2006).
Every night Mungo's mum is forced to read him the same pirate book over and over again. Every night he thrills as Admiral Mainbrace and "plucky cabin girl Nora" are rescued from the clutches of Barnacle Bill and his gang of pirates by the swashbuckling Captain Fleet. But one night, after Mungo's mum has read him the book six times (instead of the more usual four), she refuses to read again, leaving Mungo and the book alone.
Captain Fleet has had enough too. Looking for peace, he climbs out of his own book (much to Mungo's astonishment), and climbs into a slim volume entitled "At the Seaside." But now there is no-one to save the admiral and the plucky cabin girl! No-one but Mungo. And so Mungo enters the book and rousts the pirates, but unlike Captain Fleet, he does not end up marrying Nora.
The engaging illustrations have lots of humorous details, and the text is enough of a spoof of the pirate genre to amuse the adult reader (selfishly, I appreciate this in a book), while captivating the child. My boys were captivated.
Despite the "message," that you don't have to be a strong white male to be a hero (although Mungo is a sturdy white boy), and the inclusion of plucky cabin girl Nora (whose pluck is more on paper than in her actions), this book doesn't challenge any stereotypes. It is entertainment at a fun, flippant level, and for those looking for such, it is great.
In view of the most recent salvo across the bows of the kid lit bloggers (discussed at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Teacozy here) I write the following postscript:
ps. As a blogger of no qualifications, I of course do not expect anyone to take one word of this (hmm, can't be a review, because that would suggest I called myself a reviewer, which actually I don't much, so that's ok) emotion ladden summary (?) with any more seriousness than it deserves.