Thursday, May 13, 2021

Eat It And Be A Pirate, Too! Pirate Stew by Neil Gaiman

The night my mum and dad went out, I said, "We won't be babysat."

They said, "You must not grump or pout!

We're going out

and that is that!

Say hello to your babysitter!"

The brother and sister are not pleased to see their parents all decked out for a Saturday date night, but any further argument is quashed when they see their babysitter.

Right leg a peg, left arm a hook;

He grinned and said, "My card."

It read...


A cursory inventory of the family's fridge fails to meet Long John's approval, and, joined by a motley crew of assistants, Long John declares that nothing will do but that they make Pirate Stew.

"Pirate stew, pirate stew!

Eat it and you'll be a pirate, too!

All the hearty buccaneers add something to the pot--seeds from the parrot, a slice of plank that was walked, doubloons and haddock, leeks and limes and mermaids tears, all well stirred with a scimitar, and soon the crew and cook dip the steaming stew out into bowls for the maties. They all chow down, a merry crew. But the two kids eschew the magical brew. The brother takes a pass, and his sister nods, "Me, too."

But the crew is still peckish, so Long John McRon raises sails and they fly through the air freely toward a downtown donut shop. The owner says she's closing down for the night, but McRon and his marauders won't take no for an answer.

"Hand over your donuts, hearties. We'll have a donut party!"

And after the crew down their donuts, Long John drops them off at the pub for some grog and rum, and with the weary kids in tow Long Jon McRon flies right back home, just in time to make the kids' curfew. Their parents find them sadly sitting on the floor, surrounded by pirate detritis, crumbs, and an almost empty donut box. And beside them on the counter are the kids' two bowls of Pirate Stew, seemingly still steaming--and their parents, whose dinner was sadly lacking, can't resist some late-night snacking.

And so, my lads and lassies, call that a happy ending or a bad,

From that day on, a Pirate Mom and Dad was what these landlubbers had!

The Newbery Award-winning Neil Gaiman can be counted upon to come up with a fantastical story, told in jolly rhyme, and this one, Pirate Stew (Quill Tree Books, 2020), with its undertones of Peter Pan-style pirates, is certainly an offbeat story. Gaiman's wordsmithery is evident in his rhyming text with its unexpected turns, and illustrator Chris Riddell, winner of the Greenaway Medal, the British version of our Caldecott Award for picture book artistry, makes the most of Gaiman's imaginative setting and gloriously quirky characters in his fanciful drawings. Says Booklist, "Highly enjoyable, with Gaiman’s silly, singsong verses the perfect ingredient for a raucous read-aloud. Riddell’s predictably fabulous illustrations are ablaze with color and detail."

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