Pirates to the End by Susan Troutt
Children's book review by Rory Jayson
A pirate adventure for young adults
Briney McDoogal is no ordinary pirate.
He's the son of the fallen Captain Thomas McDoogal and at 14, his respected replacement on board the Gypsy Laddie. An affectionate and loyal, but hungry clan, Briney and his pals are quickly busted not for pillage and plunder, murder or mayhem, but for stealing food (and freeing a slave while they're at it.)
But in the America of 1718, hunger was not an acceptable excuse for pilfering, freeing slaves was not a noble cause and worse yet, piracy was a definite black mark—even for minors.
So Briney and three of his crew men are hauled off to a rotten sewer of a prison where they spend their time savoring the last meager morsels of life before a one-way trip to the gallows threatens to slam the door forever on their wretched little escapade.
But the Gypsy Laddie never leaves its men behind—and certainly not its captain—and the jailers of the 18th century are easily fooled. Salvation is not far off (in fact, it's literally lurking just outside the jail cell window) and young Captain McDoogal and his mates live to steal from yet another table—or two.
And that's just the first 50 pages.
Pirates to the End
Upon the high seas, Pirate Captain Briney and his corsairs tread lightly and cause little offense. It's not that they're chicken, it's just that Susan Troutt's characters, thanks, in part, to her wisely conservative sprinkling of cockney slang, have an amusingly un-pirate-like tendency toward mild manners, rational discourse and well-spoken consideration of one another's feelings.
So while there may be a lot of big talk going on, Briney's boys spend most of their time hunting for buried treasure rather than taking it by force. They're the thieves who like to let the other thieves do their dirty work, or so it would seem.
But while letting the freed slave, Gomar, join up with the Laddie's kitchen crew may have seemed like a good idea, the new addition is actually busy sowing the seeds of mistrust on board as he pretends to help Briney's bunch track their biggest score ever, Blackbeard's buried treasure!
Blackbeard is a mean, nasty old thing, though, and Briney, still a trusting youth unscarred by the treachery of the pirate lifestyle, is really up to his eyeballs in a blurry haze of subterfuge—or was it something he drank—or both?
Poisoned and on the brink of death, Captain McDoogal lies hidden below decks, while mutinous plans among his own crew are realized and, in a final stroke of tyranny and betrayal, Blackbeard himself takes the helm of the Gypsy Laddie. Briney's only hope is his little stow-away, Kend. But Kend is a mere child, what use can he possibly be?
Peppered with bygone superstitions and whimsical capers that keep things lively, Pirates to the End is the light-hearted story of honor among thieves and family among outcasts.
Written from the third person, gods-eye perspective, its scant development of characters and setting, however, make the action hard to follow at times and it might be best read by intentionally trying to picture it on the big screen.
The story of the good pirates is enthralling, though, and young Captain Briney stands ready to fill the boots of a new and enchanting Peter Pan and to reinstate the magic for middle grade readers who still crave fantasy but have arrived at a somewhat less credulous age.
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