Pirates are more than potentially menacing people who attack and steal from a ship at sea. They are a vivid and beloved part of children’s imaginations.
Think the classics, like Peter Pan and Treasure Island, more-contemporary paperbacks and the perennially popular skull and crossbones hats, peg leg and eye patches for Halloween.
Add to these “Pirates and Spooks, Beware!” — hot off the press, and created by a local author and illustrator — which comprises rhyming poems about the rascals of the sea.
The book, targeted for elementary- and middle-school kids, features not only pirates but mermaids, parrots, ghosts and mummies.
Author Susan Weiner had written other books but probably surprised herself a little with her interest in pirates. Well, maybe not entirely: she acquired a B.A. in English and was a Ph.D. candidate studying 17th-century English history.
After graduate school, the Rockville resident began writing articles for the Baltimore-based Pirate Magazine.
“So, I did all sorts of research on pirates and maritime history,” Weiner said. “One day, I wrote my first pirate poem, called ‘Stinky Pete’ (about a pirate who hated bathing), and thought, why not write a whole book?”
In tackling pirates, Weiner said went from writing whimsical and fantastic, but drawing on history.
One historical fact she learned is that pirates took not only chests of gold coins and jewels but also stole nobles’ titles as well.
“Sometimes, too, they would take more practical things, like clocks, umbrellas or cheese wheels — things they could sell on the black market,” Weiner said.
What draws Weiner to children’s books, pirate and otherwise?
While writing about history, she said, you deal with facts, but with children’s literature, normal rules don’t apply — and anything can happen.
Kids may not learn poetry in school, so Weiner’s book — in both rhyme and rhythm — may fill a niche that way as well.
Of course, for younger readers, illustrations are as essential as words. One of the appealing aspects of “Pirates and Spooks, Beware!” is the wonderfully colorful and whimsical illustrations by Bobbie Kogok.
She and Weiner have been friends for years, having met in church.
Kogok is herself a children’s book author as well as an artist and illustrator, who has been painting and drawing since she was a child.
Kogok sold her first painting in fourth grade at a school art show. It was made from coffee creamer and India ink.
Like the inhabitants in “Pirates and Spooks, Beware!” Kogok had to be inventive. After breaking a foot injury some time ago, she was confined to bed and could not use the paints she had in the past. A friend suggested an iPad, which Kogok has adopted ever since.
Some of Weiner’s poems are funny, while others send chills down your spine. There is one devoted to a Lady Pirate, whose wig carries a ruby she stole from a duke. Meanwhile, there is another entitled “Thomasin James, Gentleman, Esquire, Sir” — about a pirate who stole titles. There are poems named “Night of Scarabs, about mummies”; “Mermaids of the Hebrides seeking love” and “13,” which are described as fairytales without a happy ending.
Weiner admitted that a few of her poems might be scary, but then, so are parts of Peter Pan.
In a nice touch, “Pirates and Spooks, Beware” was released on Halloween, October 31, 2018.
“Pirates and Spooks, Beware!” was published by Belle Isle Books, an imprint of Brandylane Publishers, Inc. It can be ordered at amazon.com, bn.com (Barnes and Noble) or from the publisher at www.belleislebooks.com. The softcover book is available for $14.95.