In case you didn’t notice, Emerson was completely fascinated by pirates this past summer.
The transition from princesses to pirates came gradually in the spring when Emerson became a bit more interested in what was going on in different parts of the playground. Although she really had no idea what it meant to be pirate, she tried it out at home with Ophelia in a game they christened “Pirate and Princess”. When it came time to make the long drive to Maryland after school was out, I let each girl pick out three (three!) sticker books for the drive. True to form, Emerson picked out princesses and fairies, rock-stars, sports girls… As she fanned them out on the floor of the store to figure out which ones she liked the best, I nosed around the shelves where I found–lo-and-behold–a pirate sticker book!
If any of you have ever had a child with an obsession (especially an obsession that you don’t share–I mean, when have you ever seen me in a sequined/pink/frilly anything), you will understand my encouragement in trying to…explore other options. Let’s just say I was happy to buy her the sticker book…and happy to read it to her over and over at the beach…and happy to buy a few more books about pirates at the Assateague Island Visitor Center. (Pirates: they’re everywhere! Who knew?)
It was refreshing though, for all of us, to be learning something new. By the end of the camping trip we were old hats at knowing all about climbing the rat lines, scallywags, and salmugundi, and when we got home I hit the library full force. We found some cool books (mostly non-fiction) and read a bit of them (leaving out the rape and torture of course, and the fact of modern day Somali pirates…) but nothing really came close to the sticker book (there’s something about dressing them yourself) and the simple book we bought at Assateague. What we needed weren’t more facts (ugh…dry…), what we needed were some stories–some pirates in action. Girl pirates in action.
And then I came across this:
Of course when Emerson became interested in pirates I immediately brought her attention to women pirates, the most famous of which are Anne Bonney and Mary Reade. Not only does Jane Yolen (and David Shannon, through his illustrations) bring them to life here, but she does it through ballad…which Emerson immediately transcribed and memorized. Could there be anything better?
Now one small sloop that flew the black
Was Rackham’s Vanity,
And it was manned by twelve brave lads
Upon the roiling sea.
When it was far and far from shore
Those twelve brave lads were ten,
For only on the sloop was known
That two of them weren’t men.
Though only on the sloop was known
That one was bonny Anne,
And one was Mary Reade who dressed
Exactly like a man.
The book tells the famous story of the end of Calico Jack Rackham and his crew, who were all drunk upon their final capture in 1720–all but two of course…
“A ship, a ship!” did Mary cry.
“Come up and lend a hand.”
But Rackham and his merry men
Came not to her command.
“A ship, a ship!” then Anne cried too,
“or else I will be taken.”
But Rackham and his merry men
Their duties had forsaken.
So shoulder to shoulder and back to back,
Stood Mary and stood Anne;
Never was it said that they
Were feared of any man.
“What news, what news?” the people cry.
“What news bring you to town?”
“The Vanity is captured,
And two pirate queens brought down.”
They marched along the prison walk;
They passed Jack’s cell block by.
Called Anne: “If you’d fought like a man,
My Jack, you’d need not die.
“If you had fought right by my side,
This day we’d both be free,
A-sailing in the open air
All on the silver sea.”
The pirate queens before the judge
Each pleaded for her life.
“I am about to have a child;
I am a pirate’s wife.”
“Oh, you may be a pirate’s wife,
Or by a man beguiled,
But never would I hang a maid
And kill the sinless child.”
So Calico Jack and all his crew
Hanged on the gallows tree,
But Bonny Anne and Mary Reade
Were by the judge set free.
“Pleading their Bellies.” Emerson thought this phrase was the most hilarious thing in the world until we discovered a better one at the end of the book: “If you had fought like a man, you need not be hanged like a dog.”
If you had fought like a woman, in fact… Pirate queens–so much cooler than princesses.