I’m catching up with the last of my December reading. Here’s one that was nominated for the Cybils and a lot of fun even if it didn’t make the shortlist! I think it’s a good candidate for Ms. Yingling’s Boys Read Pink Month – an action-packed pirate story with a courageous girl in the lead.
Hilary Westfield, daughter of Admiral Westfield, wants nothing more than to be a pirate. The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates has already approved her application when she tells them that she is a girl, and forward it instead to Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies. Hilary is horrified, but her parents bundle her onto the train anyway, escorted by her governess. Miss Greyson is herself a Miss Pimm’s graduate and holder of a coveted golden crochet hook. Despite making friends with her roommate, Claire, Hilary is still determined to be a pirate, and applies to join the crew of a non-League pirate ship.
In Hilary’s world, pirate treasure means magic – magic is stored in physical objects, most of which were confiscated by the Enchantress ages ago. A few wealthy families still have small magical items – Hilary has a magical talking gargoyle made by the Enchantress herself – and every pirate dreams of finding the treasure the Enchantress hid so long ago. Now, Hilary, Captain Jasper, Miss Greyson, fellow crew member Charlie, and the icky Oliver, Admiral Westfield’s former assistant, are off with a stolen treasure map trying to find it. The roommate provides back-up via letters (no explanation for how the letters are getting back and forth when Hilary is on board a ship is given.)
I really enjoyed this fantasy pirate adventure. Hilary is a really great character, determined to succeed as a pirate on her own terms, without pretending to be a boy. The story is quirky and fast-paced, balancing tension and humor. The biggest drawback to this book is that it includes frequent newspaper articles and especially letters, written in cursive on darker-tinted paper, to tell it apart from the regular story. I know that my son, who would otherwise love this story, wouldn’t be able to read these at all. However, I’ve heard good things about the audiobook, narrated by our favorite Katherine Kellgren, so I think we’d go that way for him. I’ll definitely be looking for more books in this series for myself.