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'Roger, the Jolly Pirate'     Send a link to a friend

[JULY 7, 2004]  "Roger, the Jolly Pirate," written and illustrated by Brett Helquist, HarperCollins Publishers, 29 pages, ages preschool to third grade.

Review by Marlene Perry

Before anyone had heard of Blackbeard, Long John Silver or Calico Jack, there was a pirate named Roger. Roger was a lousy pirate. That fact is established at the very beginning of this story. Roger is not a bad person, however. He smiles, sings and likes to tell stories to his shipmates. But these admirable qualities make him a disappointing pirate. The other pirates call him Jolly Roger, and they don't mean it in a flattering way. When serious pirating needs to be done, his shipmates send Roger down into the ship's hold so he will be out of the way.

Other ship's crews are terrified of these pirates. All except one ship, captained by a man known as the Admiral. The Admiral's job is to bring all pirate ships to justice, and so the battle begins between Roger's ship and the Admiral's. (Remember, Jolly Roger is sent below deck during all exciting pirating activities.)

Alone and exiled, Jolly Roger wants to do something to make the other pirates like him, and he gets a wonderful idea -- wonderful, at least, to Jolly Roger. He will… bake a cake! (Remember, Jolly Roger is a nice and thoughtful pirate.) So Jolly Roger grabs something that looks like a big iron pot and mixes up all the ingredients he can find below deck.


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Meanwhile, above deck, the battle doesn't look good for Roger's shipmates. They are outnumbered by the Admiral's men, and reluctantly the pirate captain prepares to surrender. At that moment, in the hold of the ship, Jolly Roger strikes a match and lights the wick attached to the cake "pot" he has found.

Well, the cake doesn't bake (as you might guess), and the "explosive" results change Jolly Roger's reputation forever. Read "Roger, the Jolly Pirate" to find out how this event changed the history of pirate ships, or so this story goes.

Writer and illustrator Brett Helquist has crafted a funny and clever tale of pirate lore that will appeal to most ages. Jolly Roger is a friendly, quirky character with a chicken on his shoulder, rather than the predictable parrot. His fellow pirates are bearded and eye-patched, but not overly fearsome, while the Admiral is entertaining and pompous in his white wig and gold-trimmed uniform. The book even ends with a written song, "The Ballad of Jolly Roger."

This book and others can be found in the Youth Services Department of Lincoln Public Library. Visit us at 725 Pekin St. or call (217) 732-5732.

[Marlene Perry, Lincoln Public Library District]

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