For as long as they’ve existed, pirates have conjured up visions of high-seas adventure and skullduggery, sea chases and bloody battles, dangerous coastal lairs and buried treasure. Rightly so, for ever since ships have carried valuable cargo, pirates have enraged monarchs and struck terror into the hearts of honest seamen with their willingness to risk life and limb for an undeserved share of the riches. Whether the cargo was gold or silver, spices or silks, animal or human, there have always been villains ...
For as long as they’ve existed, pirates have conjured up visions of high-seas adventure and skullduggery, sea chases and bloody battles, dangerous coastal lairs and buried treasure. Rightly so, for ever since ships have carried valuable cargo, pirates have enraged monarchs and struck terror into the hearts of honest seamen with their willingness to risk life and limb for an undeserved share of the riches. Whether the cargo was gold or silver, spices or silks, animal or human, there have always been villains ruthless enough to kill or be hanged for it.
From the days of the Vikings to the present and in all the oceans of the world, pirates have made their presence known and feared. Recorded here are their stories along with striking images of ships, storms at sea, and secret harbors where “black ships” could be re-stocked and refitted.
Award-winning author and artist William Gilkerson has spent years researching and painting their colorful history. From the terrible Black Beard to the fascinating Granuaile, or Grace O’Malley as the English called her, they have come to life under his brush. One can almost hear the creak of timbers, the snap of canvas while turning the pages. This gift book is a rich treasure in its own right.
An eye-catching, spooky cover and end pages adorned by stylized painted maps set the stage for text and paintings that will invite pirate aficionados. Gilkerson begins with the Vikings before tracing the lore of pirating through the ages. He concludes this slim volume with a brief summary of "Pirates Then to Now." Facts about well-known buccaneers, including Sir Francis Drake, Woodes Rogers, William Teach (Blackbeard), Anne Bonny, and Mary Read, are provided in ten short chapters. Historical and geographical context for the lives of famous and lesser-known pirates is presented, and the factual text is complimented by Gilkerson's paintings, all of which are inspired by the artist/author's imagination, save the final painting in the epilogue which is a realistic portrait. Teens will likely be drawn to this title by the appealing subject matter and inviting appearance. Although the book is short and straightforward, the writing can seem academic and geared for adults. It is difficult to imagine teens of any age relating to phrases such as those used in the epilogue to describe a conversation that veers to "the transience of mortality" and "what kind of Cuban cigars to buy in Santiago." The paintings enhance the text but do not have nearly the teen appeal of the cover art. Many titles recommended as further reading are not only adult titles with little crossover appeal but are also distinctly academic in nature. This well-written book will have the greatest appeal to hard-core pirate enthusiasts, but only if they also happen to be excellent readers. Reviewer: Paula Brehm-Heeger
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—Pirates are much in the news at present, what with kidnappings off Somalia and ships threatened. This informative, beautifully illustrated book gives context to these modern-day buccaneers by presenting a cohesive, sequential look at the pirates who plied European, Caribbean, and African waters from AD 900 through the mid-19th century. Fitting European pirates neatly into their long legacy from the Aegean pirates of 4000 years ago, the author covers rationale, techniques, and common practices. His treatment of the Spanish conquistadores, who are often mentioned for their brutality but rarely considered in histories of piracy, is particularly eye-opening and thoughtful. Chapters on the more famous figures are succinct and informative. They include Sir Francis Drake, John Paul Jones, Henry Morgan, William "Blackbeard" Teach, Ann Bonny, Mary Read, and the fascinating Woodes Rogers, who went from privateer to appointment as captain general and governor in chief of the Bahamian archipelago, overseeing in that capacity the neutralization of the buccaneer community in the Caribbean. Gilkerson's scholarly background shows clearly in the pacing and vocabulary. The text is brisk and informative, and the reading level will challenge older middle school students, who will likely stick with it for the content. The illustrations, full-page, detailed paintings, are a sure draw as well. An attractive addition.—Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA
- Leona Illig
The history of pirates around the world is chronicled in this beautifully written and illustrated book. William Gilkerson describes the world of the Vikings, Conquistadores, the "Brotherhood of the Coast" in the Caribbean, and other pirate bands roaming throughout Asia and the Middle East. He explains how the surprisingly impressive pirate code of conduct and organization evolved, without hesitating to expose the pirates' brutality, which often resulted in gruesome injuries and deaths. Of particular interest is the distinction drawn between the actions of "private" pirates and those in the service of governments, and how the line between the two often became blurred. There are numerous short biographies of individual pirates, some well known and others obscure: Sir Francis Drake; Grace O'Malley, the pirate queen of Ireland; Manoel Rivero Pardal, the poet pirate; Captain Kidd; Blackbeard; Anne Bonny and Mary Read, a female pirate team; John Paul Jones; and many others. The reader learns about their boats and battles, the origin of terms such as "buccaneer," and the men who served as the inspiration for the novels of Daniel Defoe and Robert Louis Stevenson. There is a wealth of fascinating information and it is presented in an even-handed manner, without over-romanticizing the subject. The author has also included a few quotes from some of the pirates and the people who knew them. The full-page, color illustrations that occur on every other page are impressive. Unfortunately, there is a substantial editorial error on page 72, in which a number of words and possibly sentences have been omitted; it is to be hoped that this will be corrected in a later edition. This book, with its high-quality paper, binding, and cover is a true collector's item. It is sure to capture the attention of readers, not just the fans of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, but also those who are interested in good stories, good histories, and tales of the sea. Reviewer: Leona Illig
William Gilkerson is a sailor, painter, journalist, and historian. He is the author of ten nonfiction books on nautical topics as well as works of satire, art commentary, and fiction. His two-volume treatise on the development of ship’s weapons, Boarders Away, is a standard text. His drawings, watercolors, and oils have been featured in several major exhibitions and have been reproduced in books, magazines, and on film. William Gilkerson lives in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia.