Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter

GREENAWAY AWARD WINNER – 2001

Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter

Richard Platt, text

Chris Riddell, illustrations

Candlewick Press: Cambridge, MA, 2001

112 pp.

Age: 9+

Interests: pirates, history, sailing, ships, adventure, ocean

Also by this author and illustrator: Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess

Also by this illustrator: Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver”

In 1716 Jake Carpenter, age 9, leaves his home in North Carolina to go to sea. He joins a merchant ship with a cruel, drunken captain, who flogs his crew at the least provocation. Life is so hard that it’s actually a relief when they are attacked and captured by pirates. Jake and his crewmates willingly join the pirate crew and their hated captain is marooned on a nearby island.

Jake finds life as a pirate much more to his liking. The pirates operate democratically, and abide by a code of ethics agreed upon by all. And taking part in a daring attack on a Spanish camp earns Jake a small fortune in silver. As exciting as his new life is, however, when the British king announces a pardon for all who would renounce the pirate’s life, Jake jumps at the opportunity to go legit. Back on shore he starts looking for a new ship and a new adventure…

This fictional diary is a must-read for anyone interested in pirates, as it provides a wealth of factual detail, from the minutiae of shipboard life (how does a sailor relieve himself onboard a pitching ship without tumbling overboard?) to a postscript providing the historical context for the story and a list of the most famous pirates and their exploits. Jake’s adventures move along at a good pace and should keep young readers absorbed. The narrative also provides a wealth of new vocabulary, with all the sailing terms and nautical slang.

The author does not shrink from relating the unpalatable aspects of piratical life – from the biscuits full of worms to the amputation performed by the ship’s carpenter with a simple saw. The bloodshed and violence are not gratuitous, but presented as a simple necessity of the pirate’s life.

Chris Riddell’s terrific illustrations remind us what an ugly bunch Jake’s shipmates would have been, and his labelled diagram of the different areas onboard a sailing ship help the reader understand where and how the action plays out.

(This title available at amazon.com)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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