J. Patrick Lewis's Blackbeard, the Pirate King wins the award for longest subtitle: "Several Yarns Detailing the Legends, Myths, and Real-Life Adventures of History's Most Notorious Seaman." A pirate fan's delight, needless to say. My second-grader and I loved the swashbuckling art. Each poem is illustrated by full- and double-page spreads, ranging from N.C. Wyeth's "Duel on the Beach" to 18th-century reprints to 21st-century interpretations. In Howard Pyle's 1905 "Attack on a Galleon," the bigger ship glows golden as a rattle-trap pirate vessel sneaks up behind it. There's art history for the adults and wild drama for the children.
Lewis tells the famous pirate's story in a series of 12 poems, and because of the richness of its vocabulary, Blackbeard skews toward an older crowd, say, 7 to 12. I had to do a little explaining of terms as I read, but verses such as the following really capture a kid's imagination. It's from the poem "At Teach's Hole." (Blackbeard's real name was Edward Teach.)
The ghostly headless figure
Of Blackbeard, it is said,
Still swims under the moonlight
Looking for its severed head.
A helpful bibliography, author's note, and time line for Blackbeard's life give readers of these "tales of derring-do" even more resources for sailing along on a pirate theme. Highly recommended.