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Pirate Girl


by Cornelia Funke (Germany)

Native German author Cornelia Funke might be known to readers as the author of The Thief Lord. Pirate Girl is no less delightful than Funke's prior offerings. It features strong, definitively depicted characters and unpredictable plot twists – all with a beginning that smacks strongly of a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood!


Pirate Captain Firebeard is "the terror of the high seas." One day, he and his crew of meanies come across a girl who was off in a small ship to visit her Grandma. The pirates force Molly aboard their ship, the Horrible Haddock, expecting to hold Molly for ransom. While putting Molly to work aboard ship, they attempt to find out her parentage. But Molly proves uncooperative and threatens the pirates with dire happenings when they learn who is Molly's mother.


Each night, while the pirates party, cunning Molly slips messages into bottles and slips them overboard. One night, the pirates discover Molly just after her latest plea for help has splashed into the water. They threaten to throw Molly overboard, but . . . Mom to the rescue, just in time! Molly's mother turns out to be pirate Barbarous Bertha – truly the terror of the seas! Satisfyingly, the pirates are put to work on Bertha's ship, and Molly finally gets to visit her grandmother.


Translator Chantal Wright deftly supports the book's characters, both mean and strong. Kerstin Meyer illustrates the pirates' dastardly deeds in a sufficiently ominous but non-bloody fashion. The pirates look disreputable, while Molly looks deceptively innocent. Meyer uses a trick of color to contrast Firebeard's pirate crew with that of Barbarous Bertha. Firebeard's all-male crew is monochromatic lot, with only occasional flashes of color in hair and clothing. Clothing and even skin are mostly grays, with some shades of brown. To emphasize the vibrancy and strength of Barbarous Bertha's crew, Meyer decks them out in vibrant hues – reds, golds, yellows, blues, lavenders, and even pinks. Despite the feminine colors, the group looks like pirates, with scars, eye patches, knives and swords. Meyer manages to make them scarier than Firebeard's crew.


An invigorating and happy read!


Funke, Cornelia. 2005. Pirate girl. Trans. Chantal Wright. Illus. Kerstin Meyer. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0-439-71672-1.



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