An ingenious and inventive story about a boy with a very big imagination.
Sidney Green and his dog, Jemima, are busy playing when a letter arrives. It says it’s time for Sidney to become a proper pirate and tells him to report to Captain Shipshape immediately. Sidney thinks being a proper pirate sounds like fun and writes a note to say he’ll come ‘in a minute’. Sidney means to go but something always comes up – first, he has to compete in a Very Important Race, then there’s the Very Important Expedition as well as the Very Important Building Project. Captain Shipshape sends his parrot and his pirate crew to fetch Sidney but they all get caught up in Sidney’s games. Finally, Captain Shipshape himself turns up just as Sidney receives a Very Important Phone call. To his surprise the Captain finds himself swept up in the battle to save the Earth from an alien invasion. It looks like Sidney may never become a proper pirate, unless … the Very Important Dinosaur Dig might just lead to pirate treasure.
As this brief summary suggests, the plot of this story is more complicated than many modern picture books. There are also more words than is typical (although these are well spaced and cleverly integrated into the picture design). The complexity and word count are not, however, negatives. They simply mean the book is more suitable for the upper end of the picture book market (and, indeed, for newly emerging readers to read alone). And these children are likely to adore this book.
The repeated phrase ‘I’ll come in a minute’ will undoubtedly appeal to young readers as it’s likely this is something they often say themselves. They’re also likely to enjoy the carefully selected repetition in the words (and in the structure of some of the pictures), particularly as this helps children memorise and enables them to learn at least part of the text so they can join in with reading.
The story itself is wonderfully imaginative – to the extent that I’m struggling to decide which is my favourite scenario. Is it zipping around corners and over the Great Wall of China, or a hippo’s birthday part in Africa? On balance, I think I enjoyed their alien adventure the most. Structure wise, there’s a strong twist where Captain Shipshape is forced into reply in a similar fashion to Sidney. There’s also a wonderful final twist that results in a strong ‘pirate’ ending.
The pictures are colourful and appealing with plenty of detail for children to enjoy. I particularly enjoyed tracking the changing expressions and antics of Sidney’s dog, Jemima. For example, she has a wonderful pair of goggles for the cart racing and looks more than a little dubious about the prospect of sailing to Africa in a cardboard box. I also couldn’t resist giggling as the pirates zap the purple aliens with what looks like green gunk!
If you enjoyed this and are looking for another picture book with a pirate theme, why not try Pizza for Pirates by Adam Guillain, Charlotte Guillain and Lee Wildish.
Publication date: January 2019
Publisher: Nosy Crow
Illustrator’s website: Deborah Allwright