The World’s Worst Pirate
by Michelle Worthington illustrated by Katrin Dreiling
Little Pink Dog Books 2017 32 pp hardback $24.95 ISBN 978-0-9946269-1-
Reviewed by Maria Parenti-Bradley
When The World’s Worst Pirate bobbed on my horizon, I thought what could possibly be different about this pirate book? It’s a gregarious fun-loving picture book that will toss you about, like young Will, with the rise and fall of the seafaring ship. The front cover’s lopsided title and illustrations give a hint Will’s life is not straightforward. It shows a young boy flying, at right angles, from the main mast confirming he’s probably not pirate material.
It’s a narrative about being accepted for who you are, free from others’ expectations. It’s about finding your place in your community. Themes of belonging and being different follow young Will into his mother’s pirate world. It’s a test of courage. Like Will, it’ll push you this way and pull you that. He gains the crew’s respect when he confronts the giant Kraken while the real pirates are nowhere to be seen.
The creators have had fun with Will’s adventures, offering numerous learning opportunities. The alliteration e.g. ‘Marooned Macaroons’ and Pirate Pizzas’ will have kids laughing and eager to create their own. Baking, like Chef Will, can extend to bonding time with family. Other discussion topics include: finding solutions to problems, predicting what else Will can do, could do and could’ve done. Kids love having their ideas shared and valued.
The illustrator, Katrin Dreiling, has been intuitive in starting the story with Will surrounded by open white space on land. This symbolises his freedom from the confines of the ship, galley and isolating sea. However, after he is marched on-board, Will’s scenes show him confined, enclosed, restricted in the ship. It shows him having a go with the other pirates, trying his best to fit in. However, in the baking galley scenes, Will’s face fills the page bringing the reader into his sanctuary where he finds comfort. Also, the deft use of colour and facial expressions for mood and feelings allows children to empathise with the characters – notably Will’s seasick scene and the Kraken’s colour changes showing him transitioning from evil to good. Children can enjoy being detectives, noticing and working out what these scenes mean in the narrative. Dreiling’s creative invention doesn’t stop there. She has added a third layer to the story, using illustrative interplay between the blue pirate parrot and the black pirate cat to hysterical effect.
Congratulations to ‘The World’s Worst Pirate’ for gaining a Notable award from the Children’s Book Council of Australia for 2018. This picture book has timeless appeal because of its entertaining and relatable story and for its jolly illustrations. Children will draw, laugh, retell, dress up and discuss the characters over and over. It’s no wonder quality picture books are so loved and revisited.