Sorry for the radio silence, friends! It’s been crazy days, including one day home with a sick kid. So I’m posting late but it’s still Kidlit Blog Hop week – happy hopping!
Have any of you e-book reading readers heard of Book View Café? It’s an author collaborative where 95% of e-book sales go to the author. I first discovered them a few years ago, when I found that the last book in Sarah Zettel’s Arthurian quartet, previously only available in the UK (from an author who lives in my town! The outrage!), was available as an ebook. I went back recently and bought this book (based mostly on the cover) just to have something fun to read with my eight-year-old boy on my e-reader.
Barefoot Pirate by Sherwood Smith.
Joe Robles is just about to pull an intriguing-looking book off the shelf of his school library when he notices another hand on the same book. Joe wins the brief struggle, but promises his classmate, Nan, to read it right away and give it to her the next day. Both kids are entranced with the premise: the book tells the story of Blackeye the pirate, the daughter of sailors killed by an evil regent. Rather than giving up, she founds her own pirate band to fight the evil in power. But the prince is drugged by the regent and held captive in a tower enchanted so that no person from that world could get in to free him. It concludes with instructions for the readers of the book to magically transport themselves to Blackeye’s world and join the fight. (The magical book reminded me pleasantly of Diane Duane’s So You Want to Be a Wizard, without being so similar as to feel unoriginal.)
Of course both children want to go, but before they do, we learn more about Nan and Joe. Nan is a red-headed foster child. Abandoned at a young age, she’s been shunted from one foster house to another, worked hard, never given enough to eat, and always a target for bullies at school as well. Joe is a middle child with overly busy parents, stuck constantly defending his younger brother from their older sisters’ teasing. Joe himself has come under fire from his former best friend for still caring about pretend games and fantasy books and feels like he doesn’t fit in anywhere, either. Joe feels slightly guilty for leaving his younger brother, but both kids want more than anything to escape to the world described in the book.
Once they get to the other world, they find themselves part of the motley kid’s resistance movement. The gang here is clearly diverse, including a centaur as well as several shades of human kids, though there were enough of them, and with similar enough names, that I had difficulty keeping them all straight. Joe and Nan, though, are busy trying to figure out why the book thought they would be useful enough to come over, and what skills they might possibly bring to the group. The two of them weren’t friends in our world, and the magical journey together doesn’t make them instantly trust each other. There’s a lot of character depth, even as the group is engaged in the expected training, spying, evading capture, and the final release of the prince. And following that – what will they do once their job in Blackeye’s world is done? Barefoot Pirate is a solidly middle grade book with enough action to keep my son engaged combined with enough in the way of character and meatiness for me to enjoy it.