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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Night Pirates: Quiet as mice, stealthy as shadows.

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The Night Pirates, by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright
Egmont, London, 2005

Click on the cover to listen to the way we read The Night Pirates

A pirate story for boys and girls, The Night Pirates is a terrific night time adventure of a little boy called Tom, his cat and some pretty (as in rather) swashbuckling girl pirates, with great pace, lovely rhythm, and dreamy fantasy.

The Story
The Night Pirates is the story of Tom, a nice, brave little boy who goes off on an adventure. He is in bed when he hears "them" coming down his street and climbing up his house. Who might they be? Trolls? Monsters? No! They're pirates! "Rough, tough little girl pirates", coming to steal the front of Tom's house as disguise for their boat. Tom joins them on their boat and sails across the seas to an island where a bunch of lazy grown-up pirates are sleeping next to their treasure chest. The captain warns his men he's seen a house, but they ignore him and keep on snoring until it's too late and the girl pirates, Tom and his ever so wild cat jump out of the house-boat, take the treasure and sail away, paying no attention to the captain's worst pirate curse: "If you don't give me my treasure back, I'll tell my MUM!" They arrive back to Tom's house and "stealthy as shadows, quiet as mice", put back the front of his house. Tom goes back to bed and to sleep after his exciting adventure, thinking nobody will ever find out about it. But will everyone really fail to notice that the front of the house has been put back upside down?

The Illustrations
The illustrations in The Night Pirates are set in a delightfully atmospheric glowing night-time light and are cleverly complemented with typography games integrated with the images to great effect.

Look at this "up, up, up, the dark, dark house they climbed. Stealthy as shadows, quiet as mice", with the moon watching over them, and the "ups" cleverly forming a kind of staircase, the "quiet as mice" small and whispery:

Meet Tom, a nice, brave (scared, excited) little boy, with his wild cat (check out the portrait of the cat on the wall): 
This (vertical!) double page spread is one of our favourites, where Tom asks the rough tough little girl pirates if he can come too: 
And the rough tough little girl captain pirate roars her answer: 

And off they sail, with their fabulous disguise: 

Check out this bunch of pirates!

And here is Tom back in bed, fast asleep, with the boat sailing away out of the window. What an adventure!

Reading it out loud
The Night Pirates is a real thrill to read out loud. The fantastic pace, the change of volume (from whispering, to roaring and then back to whispering), the alliteration ("down, down, down, the dark, dark street they came"), the repetition ("Only the moon was watching them when they arrived. Only the moon was watching them when they left. Only the moon... and one little boy."), the great rhythm, the visual read aloud indicators, with small text for low or faraway voices and larger text as it gets louder or nearer, together with the visual effects of the illustrations makes it all roll off the reader's tongue, effortlessly engaging the listener and encouraging the listener to join in.

The fantastic double page vertical spread where Tom asks the girl pirates if he can come also adds to the experience of reading it aloud, introducing physicality (picture a slightly exaggerated turning of the book for dramatic effect) in the excitement. 

It also has just the right amount of dialogue, with the possibility of putting on different voices (I'm afraid I cannot do a pirate accent to save my life so I have not even attempted it in the recording). 

The circular structure where the images, sounds and words that set up the beginning of the story and the excitement to come are mimicked at the end, closing the adventure and the story and putting Tom back to bed is beautifully executed and adds to the feeling of cosy tiredness that comes after all rollercoaster ride adventures.  

The Night Pirates is great, great fun! 

We bought this for our son when he was about 20 months and he has loved it ever since. From the beginning he loved the whispering in "Quiet as mice, stealthy as shadows". He liked the exclamation "PIRATES!" on the vertical double page spread, and the loud "Welcome aboard" from the girl pirate. 

There's also a page where there are three drawings illustrating the house-boat getting nearer and nearer and 'Captain Patch' looking on, puzzled, which has always drawn my son's attention, and then caused his laughter when he announces he's seen a house and the other pirates reply "We've all seen houses, Who cares?". 

He's always loved the little cat's "fearsome roar", and of course, Captain Patch's curse: "If you don't give me my treasure back, I'll tell my MUM!". 

But I think his favourite part of all is the very end: "And no one would ever find out... [turn page] ... would they?", which he accompanies, mimicking his parents, with a very convincing rub of the chin.

It's a great book to read out loud before going to bed or any other time of the day. 

One more comment
With bookshops and publishers terrifyingly, irresponsibly and idiotically classifying children's literature into girls and boys literature, I would like to give a clap clap clappety clap to The Night Pirates for being a pirate book for girls and boys.  

(c) of all illustrations in this post, Deborah Allright, 2005. 


  1. Really liked the idea of a podcast, it works great!

  2. Thanks! Glad you liked it. Hope to get the podcasts up for all the other reviews soon.