A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas

Philip Yates and Sebastia Serra

Sterling Children’s Books. First published 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4549-1357-3

Many of us have knowledge of the popular “The Night Before Christmas” story but anyone with a penchant for pirates or boys aged five to six years, should take some time to invest in the brilliance of Philip Yates’s and Sebastia Serra’s “A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas.”

It’s a work of pure genius by young readers’ author Yates, a Texan resident, for whom “A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas” is his first foray into the world of picture books.

And what a rambunctious introduction to the arena it is, with a masterly piece of literature about a gang of buccaneers, aboard the Black Sark, who are visited on Christmas Eve by Sir Peggedy, the pirate equivalent of Santa.

‘Twas the night before Christmas aboard the Black Sark.

Not a creature was stirrin’, not even a shark!

The stockin’s were stuck to the bowsprit with tar,

In hopes that Sir Peggedy soon would be thar.

The pirates were snorin’ like pigs in thar beds,

While visions of treasure chests danced in that heads.

An’ I with me spyglass and scruffy old dog,

Stood watch in the crow’s nest for ships in the fog.

Award-winning Spanish illustrator Sebastia Serra brings the story to life with joyous, energetic and vibrant images capable, only, of being produced by an artist with a strong and defined style.

The story is superb but filled with pirate language which requires a glossary to help readers understand the pirate vocabulary.

Words like ‘Avast’, ‘Briny’, ‘Buccaneer’, ‘Cackle-Fruit’, ‘Shank’ and ‘Hardtack’ are explained, which is why this picture book is really suitable for the over fives, unless younger children are swept along by the images alone.

The description of visiting Sir Peggedy bears no resemblance to the jolly, fat man with a cherry nose, who is Santa, but is equally delicious in its piratical tone.

He was dressed all in black from his head to his heels,

An’ his clothes were all covered with seaweed an’ eels.

His eye-how it twinkled! His dreadlocks how twiny,

His scars were like crossbones, his gold tooth how shiny!

His mouth was turned up with a nasty ole look,

The silver gleamed sharp on the point of his hook.

A scary white skull he had hung on his ear,

Soon gave me to know I had nothin’ to fear.

Don’t go thinking Sir Peggedy will have reindeer either. It’s clear his courses will be appropriately-named giant sea horses who pull his sleigh.

“Now, Salty! Now, Scurvy! Now, Sinbad an’ Mollie!

“On Cutthroat! On, Cross-Eyes! On, Roger an’ Jolly!”

“A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas” is a joyful re-working of the original Clement C. Moore story and a wonderful addition to the home library, Me Hearties!

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