Author: Jane Yolen
Lexile Score: 1040
Genre: History/ Historical Fiction/ Mythology
Maturity level: 6th grade
Pages: 120 Chapters: 12 (basically each chapter is a different pirate) Average Chapter Length: 10 pages
Project ideas: This book could be used as a tool, researching FOR a project
First Line: A Pirate is a robber who roams the oceans of the world.
Main Character: Several Women Pirates - perhaps the main character is danger!
Review in 25 words or less: Accessible introduction to a curious subject: the woman pirate. Interesting, well-written, and full of beautiful woodcuts. Yolen keeps careful track of the truth, the myth and the embellishment; spares no detail no matter how gory.
Sea Queens by Jane Yolen is a retro-looking, fact-filled voyage through the history of women who terrorized the seas as pirates. Not exactly common subject matter! Yolen breaks the book down by chapters - each taking on a specific story of a legendary pirate. She is careful to keep you aware of the facts and exxagerations - much of what we can read about pirates has been fictionalized and obscured the truth. But true or not, the stories of these women are astounding! They are vengeful theives, liars and murderers. Ranging from 500BC to Colonial times, the stories are told concisely enough to take you right into the meaty parts: so-and-so was born in France, and one day she dressed up as a man and stole a gun to sneak aboard a dreaded pirate vessel.
The book is wonderfully arranged - the page spreads are filled with sidebars of poems, lyircs, and little-known facts; a perfectly suited non-typical format for readers who like to have their eyes jump around the page. The book is also filled with important details about weapons and ships used specific to each pirate's story. The woodcuts are beautiful, full of symbolism and simple enough to still allow your imagination to create the images of these great, terrible pirates. The book includes an extensive bibliography, as well as helpful websites on specific pirates.
For book club, this actually would make a good nonfiction choice. Students would definitely need each other to process the stories, and extra research and map reading to fully grasp the stories. And the organization of each chapter focusing on one pirate makes good sense. Personally, I struggle with reading nonfiction books stright through - it took me a few sittings to get through all the pirates. However, I know many students love nonfiction, and reading this one with a book club would help keep everyone focused and entrenched in the learning.