The Great Piratical Rumbustification. The Librarian and the Robbers. by Margaret Mahy. Pictures by Quentin Blake. Margaret Mahy is world-famous children’s author from New Zealand whom I have somehow never heard of before. I’m not quite sure how this book came across my radar, but there it was, a children’s book featuring both pirates and a librarian. How could I resist? Though these are packaged as a children’s chapter book, the book consists of two longish short stories, or maybe short novellas. In “The Great Piratical Rumbustification”, a family with three young boys moves into a house in the suburbs. It’s meant to give the children more room to play, but the cost is so high that their father is always depressed and the boys are not really sure where they can safely let loose. Things change when their mother hires a last-minute babysitter from a service for them, who turns out to be a mostly retired pirate. He sets off a signal in the backyard announcing a Rumbstification, and soon the house is overflowing with partying pirates, an event which changes everyone’s life for the good. In “The Librarian and the Robbers”, a proper but beautiful librarian is kidnapped by a gang of robbers. She wins them over by curing their measles with information in a home nursing guide from the library and by reading them thrilling tales while they are recovering. This contains some tropes that really ought not to be preserved – what is basically Stockholm syndrome combined with the Good Woman Can Cure Evil Man myth. I found myself charmed anyway. Quentin Blake’s characteristic flyaway ink drawings complete the lighthearted feel of the book. I haven’t had a chance to try it on the boy yet, but this feels like a perfect read-aloud book when a picture book is too short and a regular chapter book too long.
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