My Granny is Pirate by Val McDermid. Illustrations by Arthur Robins. Book Review.

Click here to buy My Granny is Pirate

This is a great book for Halloween but also for any time of the year for a child who loves pirates. Not real pirates, of course. But the pirates of movies and play time.

The book is told in rhyme and McDermid carries it through well. There are some pirate words that will expand the child’s vocabulary: grog, victory, passage, ghouls, castle keep, cavern, anchored, shanties, swab, entranced, reputation, and doubloon. The book begins,

“My family has a secret
I’m not allowed to tell.
They’d chased me if I told you
And then chase you as well.
So, if I share the secret
You’ve got to keep it too.
Just swear upon this gold doubloon
And then I can trust you.

The secret is that Granny is a pirate who has sailed the seven seas. She started as a cabin girl, and through her fierceness, worked her way up to captain of her own ship. What’s more, she’s always home for tea. So resilient and brave is she, that she didn’t even hesitate when a gang of bony spooks and hags attacked. She smashed them to pieces with her purse and fed their bones to her dog.

While the story is a little grisly, the cartoonish, goofy illustrations as well as the singsong, upbeat verses play down the stories frightening nature. Granny is an adorable, short woman has red curls and glasses. The unlikelihood of the story keeps it in the realm of silly make-believe.

Children will delight in the imaginings of McDermid and Robins. Wouldn’t every child want a Granny who can make tea and train them to be a pirate? The last page shows the little boy and his friends in a makeshift pirate ship created on a low tree branch. We realize, then, that Granny and the little boy have been playing together. But this is not a disappointment. A grandmother who can participate and support a child’s imaginary play is worth her weight in gold.

The book ends with, “I can be a pirate too. And so can you!” What a great jumping off point for some dramatic play with your child. You don’t need a tree house or costumes, a scarf and living room furniture will do. I once pushed our two matching loveseats together, face-to-face, so that they formed a boat with high sides. My granddaughter and I climbed over the armrests and off we sail to the seven seas. We’ve done it with a mattress on the floor. We’ve used an old board for walking the plank. Anything will do. All you need to be a pirate is a deep voice, a swagger, and imagination.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


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