Review: Captain Abdul’s Pirate School

My daughter recently turned four, and things piratical had already been on her radar, but since we read Colin McNaughton’s  Captain Abdul’s Pirate School they have become an obsession.

This is all good with me. Pirates are a change from Elsa and Anna, and McNaughton’s story with illustrations is a belter.

“My Dad says he wanted to be a pirate and so I should too. Well, I say ‘Nuts’ and I say ‘steaming cow dung’…”

Hannah has had me read unwitting pirate pupil Maisie Pickles’ tale so many times we both know her favourite bits off by heart.

It’s the humour that she loves: In Pirate School the kids are praised for pushing into lines and told off for combing their hair and brushing their teeth. “Whoever heard of a pirate with nice teeth!” yells pirate teacher Bully-Boy McCoy.

Maisie discovers a dastardly pirate plot to kidnap the pupils and extract a ransom from their parents. The kids storm the staffroom after a night of teacherly roistering, and leaving the pirates trussed up on the quayside use their new knowledge to sail away with Maisie as their captain.

It’s a full-scale narrative wrapped up in thirty picture-heavy pages of punchy pirate prose.

One of the best early readers you’ll ever find, Ooo-Arrr

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