Parrots & Pirates

Parrots & Pirates

1.5 2
by Elizabeth Levy, Mordicai Gerstein

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It's been six months since their last adventure aboard the S.S. Excalibur and Philipa and her friend Philip (who happens to be the son of the ship's captain) are both excited to meet the ship's new assistant cruise director, Herby Twining. Herby is a real jokester, the kind of guy who gets a kick out of shaking your hand with a buzzer hidden in his palm.

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It's been six months since their last adventure aboard the S.S. Excalibur and Philipa and her friend Philip (who happens to be the son of the ship's captain) are both excited to meet the ship's new assistant cruise director, Herby Twining. Herby is a real jokester, the kind of guy who gets a kick out of shaking your hand with a buzzer hidden in his palm. Philip is quite entertained by Herby and appreciates his skills as an amateur magician, but when Philip's expensive and rare parrot, Don Quixote, goes missing and Herby seems like he might be a prime suspect, suddenly Phillip isn't laughing anymore.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Philippa, 11, lives onboard the SS Excalibur with her parents, both social directors for the cruise line. Though there aren't many other children, she has a best friend and sleuthing companion in Philip, the captain's son. Together, they are always on the lookout for a mystery to solve. After the ship sets sail for Parrot Island, they have a real conundrum on their hands—Philip's beloved pet parrot is missing, and both children are convinced that he was bird-napped. Philippa speculates that the culprit is Herby, a new employee. Philip has other suspicions, though, and between their differing opinions and his dismay at losing his pet, a rift forms between the two friends. Will they be able to get their act together in time to save Don Quixote? This story is as flat as a day-old soda. The dialogue is often stilted, and the ending is wholly predictable, with the culprit being the guy whose name loosely translates to "parrot catcher." Even fledgling mystery enthusiasts will be disappointed by the unimaginative conclusion. Gerstein's winsome double-page pen-and-ink illustrations add a little sparkle to the story, but not enough to salvage it.—Amy Holland, Irondequoit Public Library, NY
Children's Literature - Sue Poduska
Philippa Bath, or "Fill up a bath" to parrots, lives on a cruise ship with her parents. Her best friend, Philip, is the son of the ship's captain. The kids are enjoying the pirate theme for the latest cruise, especially since Philip owns a parrot that was born on one of their destination islands. Philippa is worried about possible disruptions to her life. Her parents' jobs seem tenuous. The cruise director is not easy to get along with, and she has twin daughters who are often hateful. Unexpectedly, the ship takes on a mysterious new employee. Philippa is unable to trust this new man. When the pet parrot disappears, the pair must solve a mystery to save him. The author throws in references to Mozart, languages, and literature. It's a fun, rollicking story that might make the reader think. Who is the Parrot Pirate? Are all the characters what they seem to be? The detailed illustrations add to the fun. Reviewer: Sue Poduska

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Product Details

Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:
A Mystery at Sea , #2
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File size:
6 MB
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

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Parrots & Pirates

A Mystery at Sea

By Elizabeth Levy, Mordicai Gerstein

Roaring Brook Press

Copyright © 2011 Elizabeth Levy
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-0446-3


"Secrets!" Squawked the Parrot

"Excuse me, Don Quixote," I said. I stuck my hand into his cage. Feathers were everywhere. I couldn't believe how messy a parrot's cage could get. Don Quixote bent his majestic head with his curved beak toward me. He followed my every move, but he didn't attack me.

"You know Philippa, you're the only one he lets clean his cage, except me," said Philip.

We were in the captain's quarters, and I was helping Philip clean the cage for his parrot. Let me get something straight. I am not Philip's maid, even if he is the captain's son and the royal prince of Borgunlund. But Philip is my best friend, and he has been in a lousy mood — no make that a black mood — ever since we set sail for Parrot Island. So I didn't mind helping him out — especially since I hoped it would give us a chance to talk. A ship isn't a great place for privacy.

"Philip, what's going on?" I asked. "I can tell that you've been upset since the beginning of this cruise."

Philip took a deep breath. He finally looked at me. "How did you know that I was upset?" he asked.

"It wasn't hard," I said.

Philip turned to me. "You know, I'm not used to having a friend who can read my moods. Only my mother used to be able to guess what I was feeling."

"You just haven't seemed your old self," I said to him.

"You're right," said Philip. "You know that Parrot Island used to belong to Borgunlund, but what you don't know is that my mother drowned just off Parrot Island," he said.

"I'm so sorry," I said. "I didn't know that's where she died."

"Don Quixote was with her," said Philip. He reached into the cage, and Don Quixote stepped delicately onto his arm, the way he had been trained. I cleaned the bottom of the cage while Philip stroked his parrot. His voice was soft. "Don Q was a gift to my mother from Parrot Island when she was just my age. Parrots can live a long time, some get to be one hundred. Don Quixote is almost forty years old, and he's still young in parrot years. They are also very loyal. It means a lot to me that Don Quixote trusts you."

I smiled at Don Quixote. "You look very young for your age," I said to him. Don Quixote bobbed his head as if he agreed with me. "Fill up a bath!" he squawked. My last name is Bath. If you say my name fast enough it sounds like 'fill up a bath.' It's even funnier when a parrot squawks it.

"Don Quixote likes you," said Philip. "My mom would have been glad that you're coming with me to Parrot Island."

"I'm surprised your father and you even agreed to come back to Parrot Island," I said. "He's the captain. He could have refused to sail the ship there, or taken a short leave for this leg of the trip."

"Father was thinking of refusing but I want to see it again. I loved it there. My family used to vacation on Parrot Island together all the time. I'm kind of looking forward to going there with you."

Philip walked out onto his balcony. I closed Don Quixote's cage. I looked around Philip's and his father's stateroom. Everywhere you looked there was evidence of his mother's love of parrots. Besides Don Quixote, Philip had inherited his mother's magnificent collection of mechanical parrots.

I joined Philip on the balcony. Only the captain and his family get a suite of rooms with a balcony. My parents work on the ship, too — Mom's a dancer, Dad teaches water sports and karate — but we live below the waterline in a room without a porthole. Still, I love life on board and wouldn't want to live anywhere else. But it was a lot more fun when Philip wasn't so sad.

Philip was staring out at sea. I could see the lights of a small pilot ship, the kind that guide big ships like ours in and out of harbors. It was heading for us.

"Can I tell you a secret?" asked Philip. His voice sounded lighter. Maybe just talking about his mother had eased his mind a little.

"Does anybody ever answer 'no'?" I teased him. "Who doesn't want to know a secret?"

Philip pointed to the pilot boat coming toward us. "There's the secret. We're getting a new assistant cruise director and they sent a special pilot boat with him. Somebody high up in the cruise line insisted he be hired."

This wasn't normal! Usually, the only time the cruise ship would let someone board like this was if they were a VIP, or some celebrity that had missed the sailing deadline. I couldn't remember them ever sending a pilot ship for a new crewmember before.

A ladder was lowered to the pilot ship. A man jumped onto the ladder. He was very agile.

Then something even stranger happened. The man gestured to the crew to lower a hoist, and he pointed to an old trunk!

"That's weird," I said to Philip. "What crewmember would come on late and bring a trunk?"

Philip shrugged. "It's just his luggage."

"Only a captain's son would say that," I said to Philip. "You've seen the room my parents and I live in. A cockroach in a roach motel has more room! Nobody who works on a cruise ship ever comes with a lot of luggage. There's something weird about this dude. Let's go meet him. A mystery may be just what you and I need."

Philip grinned at me. "It's you who can't resist a mystery," he said.

"It's both of us," I said.

We walked back into Philip's cabin. "See you later, Don Quixote," I said as we passed the parrot's cage.

"In a while crocodile," squawked Don Quixote. I laughed. "I taught him that," I said proudly.

"I taught him a new word too," said Philip. "Secrets," said Philip.

"Secrets!" squawked Don Quixote.

"Why did you teach him to say that?" I asked Philip.

"Because I knew you loved secrets," said Philip. "Even though I was in a bad mood, I wanted to have a surprise for you."

I smiled. Sometimes Philip really did surprise me.

"Okay," I said to Don Quixote. "We're going to find out the secret behind that guy with the huge trunk ..."

Don Quixote cocked his head and looked back at me.

"Secrets!" he squawked again.


A Little Buzz

Philip and I ran down the steps to the lower deck. It was much quicker than waiting for the elevator. It always amazes us how passengers will wait for the elevator for the longest time, just to avoid even one flight of steps.

Captain Vittiganen smiled at me and waved us over. I know he likes that Philip and I have become good friends. I have a feeling that Philip led a pretty lonely life before his father and he came onto the S.S. Excalibur. Philip has had a tough life, even if he was brought up as a little royal prince.

Camilla was standing next to the captain, and she didn't look at all pleased to see me. In fact, she looked as if she had swallowed something sour. But that wasn't too surprising. Camilla Trout was our cruise director, and she almost always looked as if she were sucking on a lemon.

"Philippa," said the captain. "Come meet our new assistant cruise director, Herbert Twining."

"Call me Herby." The guy stuck his hand out to me.

I instantly got a tickling sensation in my palm. It didn't hurt, but it sure felt funny!

I jumped back. Herby opened his palm and showed me the buzzer that was in it.

Then he held his hand out to Philip. I wasn't sure that was such a good idea. After all, Philip was the captain's son and this guy was supposed to be part of the crew. Everybody on ship, including me, was careful around the captain. "So you're the captain's son," said Herby.

Philip took his hand. Philip had been taught as a royal prince to shake hands firmly, do a little bow, and almost click his heels.

Philip grasped Herby's hand firmly in his. The buzz was so loud that Camilla jumped even farther back from Philip.

"Whoo-hoo!" said Herby.

Philip started to look off ended, but then he began to laugh. "How did you do that?" he asked.

"How dare you play a practical joke on the captain's son, of all people!" said Camilla.

I noticed that Camilla didn't seem to care that Herby had also pulled the joke on me. But I was used to not counting in Camilla's world. She was the boss of my parents, and she considered herself the boss of me, too.

Just then Camilla's daughters, the Trout twins, Ruby and Sapphire, came up to us. They are just two years younger than Philip and me. Philip and I are almost twelve. When Philip first came on board the twins thought that Philip would be their friend — not mine, since technically Camilla ranks higher than my parents. The twins can sometimes be as snobby and snotty as their mother.

Philip grinned at Herby. "Give them the buzz!" he whispered.

Herby held his hand out to Ruby. She screamed as if she had been electrocuted! Camilla snatched the buzzer out of Herby's hand before he could do it to Sapphire.

"Mommy! He gave me a shock!" screamed Ruby.

"A shock!" repeated Sapphire, even though she hadn't been touched. The twins have an annoying habit of repeating each other.

"Enough!" shouted Camilla. "I will not allow this kind of foolishness on my ship."

Herby winked at Philip. I didn't get this guy. First, he played a practical joke on the captain's son, and then on his boss's kids. It was the kind of thing that could get him kicked off the ship before he even started his job.

But, to my surprise, the captain defended him. Captain Vittiganen coughed. "Technically, Camilla, it is my ship, and I don't think anybody was harmed by his little joke. Perhaps you will show Mr. Twining to his quarters."

"Somebody else can lead him to his room," snapped Camilla. "I have too much to do. Philippa's mother has a new pirate and parrot-themed show planned, and I have to make sure of the details. Although I have to admit that if it works it will be quite spectacular."

Leave it to Camilla to give a backhanded compliment — my mom taught me that term. By saying that big word "IF" Camilla made it sound as if she didn't think Mom's show would work. But I knew it would and I felt proud. I knew all about Mom's parrot and pirate extravaganza, and it was going to be great.

"We'll take him to his room," I said quickly. Herby clapped one hand on my shoulder and one on Philip's. "Lead on! Take me to my room. I can't wait to open the porthole and smell those sea breezes."

I stared at him.

"Is anything wrong?" he asked me.

"Have you ever worked on a ship before?" I asked him.

"Oh, sure," said Herby breezily. "Lots of experience. Whoo-hoo!"


A Royal Pain

We took the elevator below decks. "Hey," said Herby, dragging his trunk behind him. "Are you sure you know where you're taking me? This looks awfully different from the rest of the cruise ship."

"Welcome to our world," I said.

Herby's trunk noisily rolled along on the metal floors. Where we live there is no carpeting on the floor. The shiny metal walls are bare, except for a few posters from around the world taped to the walls. It's completely different from the rich colors and expensive materials that greet passengers in their hallways.

Philip let me lead the way — we were on my turf now. It was like a maze down in the quarters where my parents and I and most of the crew sleep. Herby was having trouble maneuvering the chest as we walked through the narrow corridors.

We ran into my mother, and I introduced her to Herby. Mom was dressed in a feathered costume, one that the costume department had designed for the parrot and pirate extravaganza.

She starred at Herby's trunk. "What do you have in there?" she asked.

"Oh, there's magic in this chest. That's why it always comes with me. May I say that you look like quite a rare bird in that costume?"

Mom laughed and patted her feathers. "I'm rehearsing for a new show we are putting on to celebrate the parrots of Parrot Island. I see you've already met my daughter, Philippa."

"I met her, but I didn't know her last name was Bath. Fill up a bath!" chortled Herby. He didn't sound as cute as Don Quixote.

Mom winked at me. "I know," she said. "But Philippa means 'lover of horses,' and she loves all animals. Both her father and I loved the name."

"My name means 'lover of horses,' too," said Philip. "It was the first thing I felt I had in common with Philippa when I came onto this ship." He grinned at me. Whoever Herby was, I had to give him credit. He definitely seemed to have brought Philip out of his funk. "Are you in charge of entertainment?" Herby asked Mom.

"Yes, it's very exciting. I've choreographed a whole new routine for my dance crew, and we've got pirate and parrot events planned for the whole week. You picked a busy week to join us."

Herby's eyes gleamed. "Maybe I can help. I'm a bit of an amateur magician, you know."

"Thanks," said Mom. "But, you'll have your hands full being Camilla's assistant."

I knew Mom was being nice. The truth was that Camilla was not at all easy to work with. "Welcome aboard," Mom said cheerfully. "I've got to go, and you should get settled. Camilla runs a tight ship."

Mom went off, and we walked down one of the corridors toward the back of the ship. Camilla had managed to give Herby one of the worst rooms, right between the engine and the crew rec room with its Ping-Pong table.

My dad was playing Ping-Pong with one of the chefs from Indonesia. I waved to them, and then introduced them to Herby.

Herby stuck out his hand. Dad jumped back when he got the buzzer in Herby's hand. I should have warned him.

"I can see you're going to add some buzz to this cruise," Dad said with a laugh. He introduced Herby to Chef Do. "My hands are my fortune," said the chef, smiling. "No buzzing ..."

"I wouldn't want to hurt the hand that's going to feed me," said Herby.

"Anyhow," said Chef Do, "I must go. It's time for my shift." He put down his paddle.

"Care for a game?" Herby said casually to Dad.

"Don't you want to get settled first?" asked Dad.

"Oh, just one friendly game," said Herby. "I don't play much."

Herby began to stretch. Then he reached into his backpack and brought out his own paddle. Dad and I glanced at each other. Not many people carry around their own Ping-Pong paddle.

"Are you sure you don't play much?" asked Dad. Herby served. The ball zipped past my father with a dangerous topspin.

"He's good," Philip whispered to me.

Dad's eyes narrowed. He got his game face on. My dad hates to lose.

Herby unleashed another serve. This time, Dad put him away with a sharp forehand.

"Go, Dad!" I shouted.

Herby aced his serve. Philip clapped for him. I glared at Philip.

"What?" asked Philip. "I know you want your dad to win, but Herby's good, too."

The game seesawed back and forth. Soon the rec room was crowded with crewmembers cheering for Dad. In the end he beat Herby, 11–9. Dad put down his paddle and shook Herby's hand.

"I guess I met my match," said Herby.

"Herby's a good sport," said Philip admiringly.

I bit my lip. "Yeah, but he lied about not playing much," I whispered back.

Dad clapped his hands together. "Welcome aboard. I've got to go. The weather report isn't good, and I have to make some alternate plans for the guests in case we have to close the swimming pool."

"I'd better unpack and see what Camilla has in store for me," said Herby. We took Herby to his room. I kind of hoped that Herby would show us what was in the trunk, but he made it clear that he wanted to be alone. "Thanks, kids," he said.

Philip and I took the staircase back to the deck. I couldn't wait to talk to Philip. We both loved mysteries and Herby was one gift-wrapped mystery! "Herby said he's worked on cruise ships before," I said urgently when we were alone. "But he didn't know that his room wouldn't have a porthole, and he didn't know what the crew's quarters looked like. He thought that my mom might actually need an amateur's help. And what about that trunk? There's got to be something suspicious in it. I think we should try to get a look inside when he's not around."

Philip looked off ended. "That would not be nice," he said in his most royal voice. "Besides, Herby is very funny ... he's like a court jester."

Philip had been in a royal court, and I guess the court jesters all worked for the royal family. Philip never had to worry. He and his father were at the top of the totem pole.

Having a joker in the pack was fun — but not if he was your parents' boss — and technically Herby rated above my parents. It could mean trouble.


A Joke in Bad Taste

The next morning, I could feel a change in the atmosphere. Passengers hate when their vacations are ruined by a storm. But the sea is a funny creature, and we really can't control her. If you get to know the seas as well as I do, you can read her moods. The waters looked calm, but it was difficult to see where the sky and water met. They were both overlapping in grays, which meant that a storm was coming soon — maybe not right away, but it was definitely on the horizon. Passengers come on our cruises to escape from their normal lives — and that's what we like to give them. We don't want them to have any stress — just fun. However, it's not always as easy as it seems to make a voyage stress-free.


Excerpted from Parrots & Pirates by Elizabeth Levy, Mordicai Gerstein. Copyright © 2011 Elizabeth Levy. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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