Growing Reader

Ahoy, Matey! Here Be the Best Pirate Books for Kids

by Tom Burns


Did you know that September 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day? If you already knew that, chances are, you either a) have a co-worker who is WAY too pleased with their Jack Sparrow impression or b) have a kid, because kids LOVE pirates. If you want to spend the 19th chatting with your young ones about “bilge rats” and “pieces of eight,” here are six arrgh-mazing picture books that will have your whole family talking like a pirate in no time.

  • Pirate Girl

    by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kirsten Mayer

    In this rousingly funny tale from Inkheart author Cornelia Funke, an independent, sea-faring lass named Molly gets captured by Captain Firebeard and the ragtag crew of the "Horrible Haddock.” However, young Molly refuses to tell the pirates who her mother is, making it impossible to ransom her off. After a prolonged battle of the wills, Firebeard discovers that Molly’s mother is the biggest, baddest pirate mama on the Seven Seas, and then things get really, really horrible for the “Horrible Haddock.”

  • The Skeleton Pirate

    by David Lucas

    This energetic, whimsically illustrated romp introduces kids to the notorious Skeleton Pirate, an over-confident rogue who loves getting into scrapes with other pirates. One day, his ego gets the better of him and the Skeleton Pirate is thrown overboard, only to be swallowed by a whale. Thankfully, a mermaid teaches the bony buccaneer to use his words — a great lesson for Talk Like a Pirate Day — and he’s able to escape, taking with him a treasure trove from the belly of the beast.

  • How I Became a Pirate

    by Melinda Long, illustrated by David Shannon

    Young Jeremy is making a sand castle on the beach one day, when all of the sudden, a pirate crew appears — led by the cheery Captain Braid Beard — and asks him to help bury some pirate treasure. (They’ve noticed that he’s a particularly good digger.) Jeremy has a grand old time being a sailor, until he realizes that pirates don’t get tucked in at night. Similar to a pirate-version of Where the Wild Things Are, this charming tale is greatly enhanced by Shannon’s terrific illustrations.

  • Roger, the Jolly Pirate

    by Brett Helquist

    It’s hard not to get excited about a pirate book that comes from the mind (and pen) of the man who provided the captivating illustrations for Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events books. This time, Helquist brings his bent artistic genius to the story of Roger, a privateer so friendly that the other pirates are embarrassed to be seen with him. But when “Jolly” Roger unwittingly inspires the design of the most famous pirate flag ever, the happy sailor finally finds his way into pirate history.

  • Pirateria: The Wonderful Plunderful Pirate Emporium

    by Calef Brown

    Where do pirates go shopping? At the “Pirateria,” of course! Noted author-illustrator Calef Brown has a ton of fun imagining a mythical superstore where any buccaneer or scurvy scalawag can find everything they need for their next piratical adventure. The text almost reads like lyrical Trader Joe’s circular copy, telling young pirate hopefuls to “Be on the lookout for specials / in our weekly dispatches. / And this just in: / a fresh batch of eye patches! / Two per package / to prevent mismatches."

  • Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta

    by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Mark Siegel

    This graphic novel for young readers is a loving tribute to the pirate operetta, ideal for the children of “Pirates of Penzance” fans. A young Victorian dog-girl attends a musical titled “Seadogs” and we’re soon plunged into the show’s all-canine pirate adventure — featuring characters like Brave Beagle and Captain Jacques Fifi of the “Mongrel Horde.” A painfully clever, beautifully illustrated treat.