Monday, July 18, 2011

Pirate vs. Pirate by Mary Quattlebaum

Book Buccaneers

To borrow the opening line of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: It is a truth universally acknowledged that…kids love to dress as pirates. And so do many adults, which is how I got the idea for my recent picture book Pirate vs. Pirate.

A few years ago my husband said to me, “Why don’t you write a pirate book so I can dress up like a pirate for your book events?” And so I wrote him a funny story—Pirate vs. Pirate—about a guy pirate and a girl pirate (Bad Bart and Mean Mo) who both want to be the biggest, baddest, richest pirate in the world. So they have a series of contests to determine who might lay claim to that dubious honor.

I loved every bit of the process for this picture book. The tale came easily in one draft and my editor at Disney Hyperion suggested only a few revisions. (I probably don’t need to tell you how rare that is for most writers, and certainly for me!) My editor chose the perfect illustrator—Alexandra Boiger—and I loved seeing her preliminary sketches turn into lively, full-color illustrations that swirl and swagger across the page. But my favorite part was writing the dedication to my husband, “a true treasure of a guy,” who has been cheerfully supportive of me and my writing for lo these many years.

An added bonus has been the chance to visit bookstores and schools…dressed as a pirate. Often the audience dresses, too—in everything from eye patches and paper hats to a velvet frock coat and ruffled shirt. And by audience, I mean kids and, yes, adult booksellers, teachers, librarians and parents. They all want to release their inner pirate! Arrrr!

“Pirate” can also be a playful way to connect books and writing with even reluctant young readers/writers (largely k-2nd). I teach some pirate lingo, show me powerful writing plume (because the pen is mightier than the sword) and have the audience help me to write a pirate poem. It’s all very Jolly Roger-ish. And I get to display some of my favorite pirate books, including June Sobel’s Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC, with hilarious illustrations by Henry Cole, and Kathleen Krull’s Lives of the Pirates.

Pirate/writing games can be found on my website Palisades Librarian Jess Storke shares piratical decorating tips, activities and photos at and

Mary Quattlebaum

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