Richard Hamilton,
Violet & the
Mean & Rotten Pirates

(Bloomsbury, 2003)

Who doesn't like pirates? Long before Johnny Depp captured the public's eye as the slightly barmy Captain Jack Sparrow, pirates have held a special place of fascination and intrigue in our hearts.

Richard Hamilton helps to indoctrinate impressionable children into the pirate lifestyle with Violet & the Mean & Rotten Pirates, a book aimed at young readers.

Despite their "mean and rotten" reputation, the pirates of the Sleek Sally are pretty mild -- in part because their red-bearded captain can't stand the sight of blood. "You can pull their noses," he tells his crew just before a raid on another ship. "You can twist their arms. You can stamp on their toes. You can tickle 'em, steal all their things. You can be rude and 'orrible and disgusting, but I don't want to see any b...."

He can't even say the word. Not so mean and rotten, after all.

But the pirates' lives take a turnabout when they find a drifting and empty ship, already raided by other pirates. All of the people aboard have been fed to the sharks, the captain determines -- except for a cheerful baby who was spared their fate. When riches are found in the baby's bed, the crew decides he -- no, wait, it's a she -- is their lucky charm, and they take her aboard to raise as a proper pirate lass. They name her Violet, or "Vile" for short.

Hamilton's book is entertaining for young readers, although his piratical slang might be a little hard for them to decipher. Not laugh-out-loud funny, it is witty enough to hold a youngster's interest as Violet learns her trade. Illustrations by Sam Hearn are rough and sketch-like, but provide goofy breaks in the text.

I wouldn't expect Disney to option the film rights of Mean & Rotten Pirates any time soon, but kids who are too old for picture books but too young for lengthy chapters will enjoy their time at sea with Violet.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 10 April 2004

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