The Pirates Are Coming by John Condon, illustrated by Matt Hunt

      The Pirates Are Coming by John Condon, illustrated by Matt Hunt, Nosy Crow (an imprint of Candlewick), 9781536212167, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?  This sly picture book initially presents itself as a re-telling of the Aesop classic, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” “Every day, Tom climbed the hill to watch for pirates.” Young Tom is shown all alone on a grassy green knoll, overlooking a picturesque, clapboard fishing village. In the distance, he spies a ship and races to town shrieking, “The pirates are coming!” whereupon the villages comically hide in whatever’s close at hand (a dead shark hanging upside down, a net full of fish).  After each run into town, Dad patiently points out Tom’s mistake (Not big enough! No pirate flag!) as the villagers grow weary of hiding (in the pig trough or the woodpile…).  Of course, when the pirates do finally show up, no one hides until they luckily hear the squawk of the captain’s parrot and jump into the pelican’s waiting beak or an old barrel just in time. The fierce looking pirate crew (tattooed, multi-ethnic, differently-abled) look pretty grim, but then all the townspeople leap out yelling “Surprise!” and welcome home their swashbuckling family members, including Tom’s mom, the captain! 

The delicious artwork is done in mixed media with a lot of texture and bright, seafaring colors, reminiscent of the Carribean. The people and animals are highly stylized with big heads and googly eyes, the better to roll them at Tom and his continuous false alarms. There’s lots to look at on the oversized pages, with illustrations that bleed right to the edge. The pirates are covered with interesting jewelry, weaponry and scars that read “fierce” right up to the moment when they hug their moms or scoop up their children.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  This would make a great storytime choice, with its generously-sized pages, simple and recognizable story and big reveal. It could also be a good mentor text for predicting or retelling with a twist writing projects. It would even be fun to act out as a play!

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: July 28, 2020


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