Pirates Around the World Book Reviews

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Booklist, December 1, 2015

On Blackbeard (Edward Teach), Long Ben (Henry Every), Sir Henry Morgan, and William Kidd

Piracy, adventure on the high seas, and dastardly deeds—it sounds plucked from the pages of a storybook. But the Pirates Around the World series deals in the true stories of some of the world's most disreputable pirates. Blackbeard examines the life and death of the famous blackguard, as well as the rumors surrounding his legendary hidden treasure. Though the subject of Long Ben began his seafaring career as an honest navy sailor, a mutiny soon turned him into a pirate—a career that ended when he disappeared without a trace. Sir Henry Morgan follows the exploits of a man who, despite his reputation as a fearsome buccaneer, considered himself a legal privateer, or a sailor who pirates with the support of his government. William Kidd looks at the dramatic events in the ultimately tragic life of Captain Kidd, a man who began his career as a businessman and a pirate hunter before gaining notoriety as a pirate himself. There are more dynamic offerings on this high–interest topic available. Still, this text–heavy series offers a thorough look at some of the figures behind the Jolly Roger. Occasional "How Much Is True?" and "More about Pirates" sections separate piratical legends from history, and extensive chapter notes and alternate resources provide plenty of opportunities for those interested in further research.

Series Made Simple, November 2015

On Black Bart (Bartholomew Roberts), Francois L'Olonnais, Sir Francis Drake, and Anne Bonny

These solidly upper elementary to middle grade narratives on pirates are punctuated by short sidebar articles under headings like "More About Pirates" or "How Much Is True?" The quality of these asides is mixed. An article on careening a ship for repairs is compelling. But many of the volumes, particularly Anne Bonny, present the stories as though they are historical fiction (with dialogue and internal musings) and then employ sidebars to make corrections or reinforce what is reliably historical, a strategy that is highly repetitive and potentially confusing. Illustrations are copious, often using what appear to be period paintings or etchings, though some lack captions. Back matter includes significant chapter notes and a helpful, clearly written glossary. The lists of Internet resources are impressive and well vetted. VERDICT Despite some notable flaws, these are recommended research materials on a subject of enduring fascination.