The most powerful pirate in history was a woman who was born into poverty in Guangzhou, China, in the late 1700s. When pirates attacked her town and the captain took a liking to her, she saw a way out. Zheng Yi Sao agreed to marry him only if she got an equal share of his business. When her husband died six years later, she took command of the fleet.
Over the next decade, the pirate queen built a fleet of over 1,800 ships and 70,000 men. On land and sea, Zheng Yi Sao’s power rivaled the emperor himself. Time and again, her ships triumphed over the emperor’s ships.
When she was ready to retire, Zheng Yi Sao surrendered — on her own terms, of course. Even though there was a price on her head, she was able to negotiate her freedom, living in peace and prosperity for the rest of her days.
Zheng Yi Sao’s powerful story is told in lyrical prose by award-winning author Helaine Becker. Liz Wong’s colorful, engaging illustrations illuminate this inspiring woman in history.
An author’s note provides historical context and outlines the challenges of researching a figure about whom little is known.
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About the Author
Helaine Becker is an award-winning author who has written over eighty books for children. Her picture books include You Can Read, illustrated by Mark Hoffmann; Sloth at the Zoom, illustrated by Orbie; and Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk. She has also written non-fiction, chapter books and poetry. She is a two-time recipient of the Lane Anderson Award and a winner of the Silver Birch Award and the Bank Street College of Education Cook Prize. Helaine lives in Toronto.
Liz Wong was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she spent her early childhood painting and clambering about in mango trees. Winning the first-place trophy in her elementary school poster contest encouraged her to pursue art instead of a sensible career in finance like the rest of her family. Liz holds a BFA in art and a BA in anthropology from the University of Washington and currently resides in Edmonds, Washington, with her husband and son.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for author Helaine Becker and illustrator Liz Wong for Pirate Queen:
“[R]eaders will be drawn into this tale about a strong Chinese woman who has overcome her difficult circumstances to become a feared powerful leader who plunders wealthy towns to help the poorer ones. … Highly recommended.” CM: Canadian Review of Materials
“The combination of subtle text and expressive pictures weaves a convincing tale filled with emotion and conveys a sense of place that transports readers back to China at the turn of the nineteenth century.” Pirates and Privateers Blog
“[Helaine Becker’s] writing is clear, straightforward, and riveting.” The Children’s Bookroom Blog
“Though Helaine Becker is a versatile writer of picture books, early readers, middle grade fiction, and non-fiction, I think she has outdone herself in this story of the Pirate Queen.” CanLit for Little Canadians Blog
Praise for author Helaine Becker and illustrator Dow Phumiruk for Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13:“A picture-book biography of a humble genius who excelled in a career once out of reach for most African-Americans. An excellent biography that will inspire young readers, especially girls, to do what they love.” Kirkus, starred review“Featuring engaging text and captivating illustrations, this picture book introduces the amazing life of mathematician Katherine Johnson to young readers. Sure to inspire a new generation of mathematicians.” School Library Journal
Praise for Liz Wong and The Goose Egg:“Rendered in a soft palette using watercolors, colored pencils, and gouache, Wong offers a gentle story of imprinting, to be sure, but more so a story of finding love where and when it’s least expected.” School Library Journal, starred review“A captivating and endearing life lesson.” Booklist, starred review“A sweet tale.” Kirkus Reviews