We Recommend: Funny, Fighting Pirate Books

It's We Recommend, in which we do our very best to solve book-related quandaries, needs, and other miscellany, and then turn them over to you, the readers, who really solve them. Need help finding the right book? E-mail us with some information about your reader, likes and dislikes, and anything else, and we'll do our best. Now, on to our challenge!

You want a specific request? I'll give you a specific request. Read on, for our latest book-lover's challenge.

My eight-year-old son, who's just finished third grade and is an enthusiastic reader, is aching to find a pirate book. A very specific kind of pirate book, which will be funny and full of fighting and probably monsters and treasure, or at least great swashbuckling adventures. Think 'Pirates of the Caribbean' in book form for elementary schoolers. The school librarian gave him The Giant Rat of Sumatra, which he read some of and then put aside, complaining it didn't have enough fighting, and a friend lent him The Pirates' Mixed-Up Voyage, which he hasn't started yet, but which I have been informed is very funny but completely without fighting, so while he'll doubtless enjoy it, I don't think it will quite satisfy this yen. I'm thinking of trying Peter and the Starcatchers on him, but I think the length might intimidate him, although we might try it as a read-aloud. Some great (non-pirate) hits for him this past year have been the Bunnicula books, a couple of Roald Dahl titles, and the Geronimo Stilton books.

OK: funny, fighting pirates. Let's see.

I must admit that at first I was stumped. I just haven't swum deeply in the pirate waters. Luckily, I have a team of readers here, and they were all ready to help. Chestnut hoped against hope that The Pirates of Penzance was a book, but alas it is (as far as I know) only an operetta. Diana suggested the fourth book of Keys to the Kingdom series, which is probably far too sophisticated for an 8-year-old, despite his sophistication as a reader. But it was my husband who said immediately, The Wonderful O.


Note the pirates on the cover. Note the funniness.

It's got it all, he promises (though he admits that it may be a bit light on the fighting). He also puts in a plug for Treasure Island, which he admits might be too much for him to read himself, but is eminently read-aloudable (Oh Lord, forgive my neologisms).

But readers, surely there is someone out there who knows of a book that features a fighting, funny pirate that an 8-year-old would want to read? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

17 thoughts on “We Recommend: Funny, Fighting Pirate Books

  1. The Princess Bride? It is mostly a fairy tale, but it’s funny and there’s sword fighting and the Dread Pirate Roberts.


  2. Warning: I have not read this book. However, I don’t doubt it is excellent. The Dread Crew by Kate Inglis. She is a Canadian writer and this is her first book. She is writing a sequel right now. Here is her book blog: http://www.kateinglis.com/
    It is (still) on my list to read!
    Otherwise, how about Peter Pan?


  3. It’s funny that you bring up the Wonderful O–we’ve had it on the shelf for almost a year, and my daughter has refused to read it precisely because she doesn’t like pirates. I finally convinced her that it’s kind of about pirates, but more about words…and she’s consented to starting it tonight. However, I’d argue that, being Thurber, it’s another one that’s best when read aloud…
    (BTW, your kids might like the White Deer next, if they haven’t read it already…)


  4. So, it’s not about pirates, but it is about ninjas/samurai, which my pirate loving students also tended to gobble up: The Samurai Kids series, by Sandy Fussell. I thought they were funny, and I couldn’t keep them on the shelves, so it seems the kids liked them too.


  5. I read Treasure Island at about that age. I was a very precocious reader, and it was way, way above my comprehension level — I actually had to read the whole thing out loud to myself, slowly and carefully, so that I could comprehend the gist of what was going on. Despite that, I absolutely adored it. There was fighting and swashbuckling adventure and incredible painted illustations by N.C. Wyeth. So it is probably much too difficult for this boy by any objective measure, but he might love it anyway. Find a copy with the Wyeth illustrations!
    Ooh, and what about Pirates: Robbers of the High Seas by Gail Gibbons, incredibly prolific author of nonfiction picture books for obsessive children.


  6. What about Peter Pan? Definitely has pirates, definitely has fighting, and the pirates are HILARIOUS. An oldie but a goodie.


  7. How about Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates: Fiction Fact and Fancy concerning the Buccaneers and Marooners of the Spanish Main? It is out of print. I’ve found it on Project Gutenberg, that might drive you crazy, but it would give you an idea of whether it was worth buying a used copy. I have never read the Book of Pirates, but I loved his medieval Historical fiction: Otto of the Silver Hand and Men of Iron; and his fairy tales in The Wonder Clock and Pepper and Salt. Howard Pyle is famous for writing a children’s Robin Hood and a multi book series on King Arthur and the knights of the round table, and his illustrations are just wonderful!


  8. Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space is funny and contains space pirates in an old wooden ship.
    Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset contains very funny pirates who are temporarily without a boat.


  9. These are adult books and might be beyond the 8 year old’s level but Gideon Defoe’s Pirate books are the best thing since sliced bread. Hilarious and witty and just, well, hilarious. So hilarious it bears repeating.
    There is also a movie coming out made by the Wallace & Gromit folks, so that would be a good tie-in that might bring it down to the 8 year old’s level a bit.
    But seriously. Hilarious.


  10. and by “adult books” I mean they are in the regular adult fiction section. I can’t recall anything in them that might be inappropriate for an 8 year old to read.


  11. Katie, I’m glad you mentioned them. I thought of them, and couldn’t recall anything inappropriate, but then, my standards are pretty lax.


  12. Its already been mentioned multiple times, but I have to put in my vote for Treasure Island. It immediately popped into my head when I read this. It’s not funny, in fact I remember it being pretty scary (I can’t remember how old I was when I first read it), but I do remember reading it several times. Great, great book.


  13. I thought of another book. How about Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini? I admit I haven’t read it, but I have read another book by him called Scaramouche. They are old fashioned books, so I think they would work as read alouds, but I bet there is swashbuckling galore! An Amazon reviewer mentioned reading them to his grandchild, (I don’t know how old).


  14. I’m joining the game a bit late here, but will recommend Eric Linklater’s The Pirates in the Deep Green Sea.


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