Books: Everything you ever wanted to know about pirates

They are scar-faced scoundrels that inflame the imagination of more mild-mannered minds. And why not? Pirates are glamorous and gutsy. If you’d like to learn more about them, visit your local library or bookstore. You’ll also find swashbucklers sailing through cyberspace via Internet Web sites.

For starters, here are some books about pirates:

  • “Blackbeard: A Tale of Villainy and Murder in Colonial America” by Margaret Hoffman (Summerhouse, Press, 1998) is based on a true story that links Blackbeard with important government officials in Colonial America, including the governor of North Carolina. Hoffman paints the notorious pirate, who died in 1718, as charming, gallant and romantic. 
  • “Sir Francis Drake: The Queen’s Pirate” by Harry Kelsey (Yale University Press, 1998) revamps the image of Sir Francis Drake as a clean, courageous knight of the sea who used acts of piracy to make England a premier naval power. In Kelsey’s version, Drake is portrayed as “a rogue, an able seaman, and a pirate,” equally interested in filling his pockets with Spanish booty. 
  • “Treasure Islands: The Fascinating World of Pirates, Buried Treasure & Fortune Hunters” by Cameron Platt and John Wright (Fulcrum Publishing Inc. 1995) chronicles the true tales of 11 treasure islands, all believed to hold a lost or hidden treasure. The treasure hunters in the book range from modern corporations to real pirates including Captain William Kidd who sailed in the 1700s. 
  • “Under the Black Flag: The Romance and Reality of Life Among the Pirates” by David Cordingly (Harcourt Brace & Co., 1997) is filled with stories about the golden age of piracy. Included in the historical anecdotes are the adventures of Blackbeard, Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd, Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Books For Children

    When it comes to starring in children’s imaginations, pirates are perfect for the part.

    “It’s a great fantasy character. It’s like a superhero,” said Cathee Marston, owner of Young Editions children’s bookstore in Carrollwood. “Children see pirates mostly as fantasy and pretend, because anybody can make a cape and have a sword made out of a paper towel roll.”

    Marston recommends Emily Arnold McCully’s “The Pirate Queen” and Richard Walker’s “The Barefoot Book of Pirates” as two examples of books that do a good job of introducing kids to pirates.

    In “The Pirate Queen,” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995) readers meet the legendary Grania — or Granuaile in Old Irish — O’Malley. Known in English as Grace O’Malley, she ruled the seas off the west coast of Ireland during the 16th century. Written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, the picture book tells the true story of strong-willed Grania, who was born at Clare Island castle in 1530 into a family of successful sailors who also happened to be pirates. “As soon as she could tie a knot, Grania begged to sail with the fleet,” McCully writes. “Her mother said it was no life for a young girl, but Grania wouldn’t give up. She ran off and returned with her hair shorn like a boy’s. Her parents laughed at her willfulness and nicknamed her Grania the Bald. She had won the right to go to sea.”

    “The Barefoot Book of Pirates” (Barefoot Books, 1998) spins seven pirate stories retold by Richard Walker. In his author’s note, Walker writes that he based some of the tales on adventures of real pirates, while others come from “the inventions of storytellers from long ago.” Included are “Pirate Grace,” which tells the story of Irish pirate Grace O’Malley and “The Kobold and the Pirates,” a German story about a pirate ship cabin boy who befriends the kobold, which is the spirit of the sea.

    Here are more pirate books for children available at bookstores and libraries:


  • “Do Pirates Take Baths?” by Kathy Tucker (Albert Whitman & Co., 1997) is a picture book that answers in verse what pirates do, wear, eat and dream about. 
  • “Pirates” by Philip Steele (Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc., 1997) provides kids with a behind-the-scenes look at the role of a pirate, from daily life aboard ship to the dangerous battles fought to win treasure. 
  • “The Ghost of Grania O’Malley” by Michael Morpurgo (Viking Children’s Books, 1996) spins the story of a girl named Jessie who meets the ghost of pirate queen Grania O’Malley. 
  • “The Great Pirate Activity Book” by Deri Robins (Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc., 1995) provides a pirate’s treasure of adventurous activities including building a pirate ship, dressing like a pirate and hosting a skull and crossbones party. 
  • “The Ballad of the Pirate Queens” by Jane Yolen (Harcourt Brace & Co., 1995) follows the story of the legendary pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who sailed with Calico Jack Rackham and his pirates in the early 1700s. 
  • “The Pirate’s Son” by Geraldine McCaughrean (Scholastic, 1998) tells the tale of Nathan, a 14-year-old boy living in 1717 England. His life changes when his father dies and Nathan is kicked out of Graylake School because he can’t pay the tuition. An avid fan of pirate books and legends, Nathan hooks up with a friend named Tamo White, who also happens to be the son of a pirate, and the boys sail away on a pirate ship to Madagascar. 
  • “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson (Trafalgar Square Publishing, 1998) was originally published in 1883. Starring the infamous peg-legged pirate Long John Silver, the story is considered to be a masterpiece of piracy lore. The tale begins when the mistress of an inn and her son discover a treasure map while searching through the belongings of a deceased guest who owed them money.

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Web sites

To find a treasure trove of information on the Internet, type in the words “pirate” and “buccaneer.” Here are six sample hits from the dozens of Web sites and Internet links dedicated to pirates:

  • Blackbeard, King of Pirates
    This Web page provides everything you ever wanted to know about Blackbeard with topics titled “My Ship,” “Sea Tales,” “Treasure” and “The Crew.”
  • Piece of Eight’s pirate gallery
    Here’s the place to meet more than 50 pirates. In addition to biographical text, the site offers portraits of some of the more notorious swashbucklers such as Anne Bonny, William Kidd, Edward Teach, Mary Read and Henry Morgan.
  • Pirates, Privateers, Buccaneers
    This site offers a variety of pirate information including topics such as pirate rules of conduct, famous pirates of colonial America, the golden age of pirates, Samuel Bellamy and Blackbeard.
  • Pirates home page
    Discover the difference between pirates, buccaneers and privateers, meet some famous pirates including Mary Read and Anne Bonny and read a summary of “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson on this site.
  • National Maritime Museum: Fact File, Pirates
    Based in Greenwich, England, the National Maritime Museum offers this fact-filled site with everything you ever wanted to know about pirates. Categories range from “Who were the buccaneers?” to “What sort of booty did pirates seize?” to “Why did so many pirates operate in the Caribbean Sea and off the coast of America?” to “How did governments fight back against the pirates?”
  • The New England Pirate Museum
    Here, you can scan a page of pirate vocabulary or read some pirate biographies. This site also provides information about The New England Pirate Museum in Salem, Mass., where you can stroll through a Colonial seaport, board a pirate ship and explore an 80-foot cave.