This is the next in an ongoing series of topic related posts which are aimed at helping educators and/or parents to find books which are suitable accompaniments to their topic based projects in school.
I tend to steer away from recommending non-fiction works, as these are much easier for you to search on using Amazon or other book sites, given that the majority of non fiction topic books will have key words in the title. It’s not so easy with works of fiction.
Our KS1 children (aged five through seven) have just finished doing a project on Pirates and these are some of the Key Stage One books we have discovered which you may want to use if you are doing a similar project yourselves.
I will indicate where I have read the book in question. If I do not mention it, I have not read it, and I would advise you to read all the books in question before you give them to children just to double check they are fit for purpose.
If you have any recommendations I have missed, please feel free to drop them in the comments box below the post.
When I create a list like this for Key Stage Two readers I generally suggest whether the book would be suitable for guided reading (length is the main criteria here, as it will need to be started and finished within the topic parameters and in school time), and whether it is suitable for girls or boys or both. With Key Stage One books this is less problematic as the books tend to be simpler, shorter and more universal in appeal. If I think a book has a specific bias or there is an issue with gender I will point it out. Otherwise all the books are suitable for everyone.
Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs by Giles Andreae – This is the first in a series of picture books about Flinn and his friends, and how during school time they often find themselves magically whisked away to battle the Pirate Dinosaurs on the high seas. This, as you would imagine, would work well for a topic on dinosaurs as well as pirates, and the two together are a winning combination. I have not met a single small child who is not entranced by these books, and in my opinion, they get better as the series progresses.
Pirate Bob by Kathryn Lasky – A picture book that explains what it was like to be a pirate during their most notorious reign of terror on the high seas. It explains life on board ship and what it felt like to actually be a pirate.
Pirate Pete by Kim Kennedy – Pirate Pete steals a coveted treasure map from the Queen and takes his ship to the island where X marks the spot. Hungry for gold he takes little detours on his way to a number of intriguingly named islands. There are other books in this series, including Pirate Pete Talk Like a Pirate.
Pirates Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort – Another in the long running series which started with Aliens Love Underpants. On the plus side, any story with pants in is sure to bring the house down with the under sevens. Children will also be entirely familiar with the concept and which way the story is going, as I have not met a single child who does not know all about Aliens Love Underpants. On the negative side, the franchise, to me, is now getting weak, and tired, and there are much more engaging pirate books around. This one will definitely be a crowd pleaser though.
Captain Pugwash by John Ryan – I had to include this book, even though my children aren’t very keen, because this is one of the books/t.v. series of my childhood. I loved Captain Pugwash and everything about him. The stories are quite wordy and a little old fashioned, but persevere, maybe show the television series on Youtube and you could have a new generation of fans on your hands. This is the first of a whole series of Pugwash books.
Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies by Caroline Crimi – This is the first of a series of books about Barnacle Black Ear and his crazy pirate crew, aboard the Salty Carrot. Henry is not a very good pirate, and always has his nose stuck in a book. Somehow though, he manages to get dragged into adventure every time. One of the other books in this series has possibly the best title of a book, ever; ‘Henry and the Crazed Chicken Pirates’.
The Man Whose Mother Was A Pirate by Margaret Mahy – Sam is an ordinary, dare I say dull, person, until one day his mother invites him to go on an adventure with her, and he finds out that she is a pirate. I read this book as a child and loved it. My children loved it too. It’s silly and sweet and a lovely twist on the more traditional pirate adventures.
The Great Piratical Rumbustification by Margaret Mahy – This is another childhood favourite of mine. This is particularly wonderful because not only is the story fantastic, but it is illustrated by the peerless Quentin Blake. It is quite a wordy, long story and may be suitable for reading over a couple of days.
Portside Pirates by Oscar Seaworthy – This is a wonderful song which has been turned into a story book with information about pirates and life on board ship. The quality of the book is high, as it is a Barefoot Book, an independent, ethical publisher who pride themselves on producing gorgeous books on a variety of subjects. This comes with a CD so the children can sing along.
The Barefoot Book of Pirates – A stunningly illustrated book (and accompanying CD) of pirate stories from all over the world.
Pirate Girl by Cornelia Funke – Captain Firebeard thinks he’s the toughest pirate on the high seas, until he kidnaps a small girl called Molly, and learns to rue the day. This book is out of print, but is available to buy from second hand sellers via Amazon.
Blackbeard: Pirate for Hire by Matthew McElligott -The Pirate council have kicked Blackbeard out of his pirating life, for not sticking with the traditional pirate dress code. This book explores what happens to Blackbeard when he tries to get a new job in a non pirate life.
Bubble Bath Pirates by Jarrett J. Kcrosoczka – This is really suitable more for pre school/early years readers. It tells of a pirate mum and her two children having their first successful bath.
Small Saul by Ashley Spires – Saul is too small to join the navy, but he doesn’t want to give up on his dreams of going to sea. Instead, Saul becomes a pirate, but becoming a pirate and being a good pirate are two different things and Saul has to work hard to be accepted.
Do Pirates Take Baths? by Kathy Tucker – This book is currently out of print, but is available second hand from various sellers via Amazon. It is a bright and funny book that answers thirteen questions you always wanted to know about life as a pirate.
The Ballad of the Pirate Queens by Jane Yolen – This book is currently out of print, but is available second hand from various sellers via Amazon. It tells the story of two real life pirate women and their last voyage together. It is in ballad form.
Dirty Joe, The Pirate: A True Story by Bill Harley – Dirty Joe sails the seven seas in search of the stinkiest treasure ever, smelly socks. He may have met his match when he comes across Stinky Annie, searching for the self same thing.
Roger, The Jolly Pirate by Brett Helquist – This book is currently out of print, but is available second hand from various sellers via Amazon. Helquist is probably best known as the illustrator for Lemony Snicket’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’. His unique style of drawing is well suited to this tale of why Roger is such a bad pirate, and how he learns to make amends to his pirate peers.
The Gingerbread Pirates by Kirstin Kladstrup – Jim and his mother are making pirate gingerbread on Christmas Eve to decorate their tree. Jim’s favourite is Captain Cookie, and he takes him to bed with him. Once Jim is asleep, Captain Cookie has to escape downstairs, to rescue his crew from the cannibal, Santa Claus.
Tim Ted and the Pirates by Ian Whybrow – Tim and Ted are enjoying story time at school when all of a sudden the classroom fills with water and they find themselves on a nautical adventure.
Mrs Pirate by Nick Sharratt – this is really a book for early years/ pre school children. Sharratt’s iconic illustrative style is coupled with simple text to make a funny story about a pirate shopping trip. This book is currently out of print but is available second hand from various sellers via Amazon.
Captain Wag The Pirate Dog by Michael Terry – This is the first in a series of books by Michael Terry about Captain Wag. Captain Wag is not a brilliant pirate. He is feeling rather gloomy until he comes across a treasure map that could change his fortunes for the better. He and his ship mates race to find the treasure.
Tough Boris by Mem Fox – This book is currently out of print, but is available second hand from various sellers via Amazon. Tough Boris seems as mean and tough as his name implies, but when a young stowaway boy joins the crew he finds that appearances can be deceptive.
Edward and the Pirates by David McPhail – This is about Edward, a book mad little boy who gets sucked into every story he reads. His favourite book is one about pirate treasure that has never been found. One night, as he goes to sleep, Edward finds himself in search of treasure.
Jolly Roger by Colin McNaughton – This is the story of Roger, who dreams of running away to sea to be a cabin boy. Unfortunately he is press ganged by pirates before his dream can come true, and he finds himself on board a disgustingly smelly pirate ship, having the adventure of a life time. This book is currently out of print, but is available second hand via sellers on Amazon.
Captain Abdul’s Pirate School by Colin McNaughton – This book is currently out of print, but is available second hand via sellers on Amazon. Colin McNaughton is well known for his funny poems and his wonderful series about the clumsy Preston Pig. In this book, Captain Abdul finds himself saddled with a pirate pupil who doesn’t want to learn.
Come Away From The Water, Shirley by John Burningham – Illustrated in Burningham’s inimitable style and with the same dry wit that made Avocado Baby such a hit, this story tells the story of Shirley’s adventures at sea, told both from her parents perspective and her own.
The Night Pirates by Peter Harris – One night, Tom is woken by strange noises coming from his garden. When he looks outside he sees girl pirates stealing the front of his house. He is forced to sail across the high seas to reclaim his property from the lazy, stupid pirates.
The Pirates Next Door by Johnny Duddle – This is the first in a very successful series about a pirate family, The Jolley-Rogers, who move to Dull on Sea and liven things up considerably.
A New Home for a Pirate by Ronda Armitage – Pirate Jed is a rubbish pirate. He suffers from sea sickness all the time. Fed up of feeling poorly he makes his way onto dry land to try and find a life that suits him better.
The Pirates and the Pig by Frank Rodgers – This book is currently out of print, although there are second hand copies available from various sellers via Amazon. There is a mutiny on board ship, and while the captain is locked away in his cabin, the captain’s beloved prize pig is at the mercy of some hungry sailors.
Jonah and The Pirates Who Usually Don’t Do Anything by Eric Metaxas – Some lazy, cheese curl eating pirates actually decide to do something and finally get to tell everyone about the adventures they have.
Mungo and the Picture Book Pirates by Timothy Knapman – This is the first in a series of pirate adventures by Timothy Knapman. Mungo reads his favourite pirate story every night. He knows it off by heart. One night, as he begins to read, he notices the oddest thing, the pirate captain isn’t there. Mungo decides that only he can save the story and dives into the pages to take part in the adventure himself. My son loved this story.
Captain Teachum’s Buried Treasure by Peter Carter – Captain Teachum has a ferocious reputation as a pirate, but at home he is totally hen pecked and can never remember where he has put his treasure. A very funny book with wickedly amusing illustrations by Winnie the Witch illustrator, Korky Paul.
Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor by Mervyn Peake – Written by the author of the renowned fantasy trilogy, Gormenghast, Peake told this story to his children and illustrated it for them. It is quirky and funny and highly original. I loved it, and have devoted a whole blog post to it on this site.
How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long – Jeremy Jacob is invited on board a pirate ship to find out what it’s truly like to be a pirate. He loves the life and cannot understand why anyone wouldn’t want to be a pirate, until he finds out what pirates don’t do.
Pirate Brother by Pete Johnson – Jamie doesn’t want to be a wimp. He models himself on his hero, the pirate Brave Bill. One day he magics himself into Brave Bill’s world.
Yo Ho Ho, A Pirating We’ll Go, by Kaye Umansky – This lively and colourful rhyming picture book is more suitable for early years and pre school children than key stage one children, but it’s lots of fun nonetheless.
The Troll by Julia Donaldson – in this, wonderfully funny book, the pirates are looking for their treasure at the same time as the troll is looking for his dinner. The resulting mix up is hilarious. This is an absolute gem of a book.
The Pirate House Swap by Abie Longstaff – The Clark family decide on a new type of holiday. They swap their nice, safe house with the crew of a pirate ship.
On a Pirate Ship by Anna Milburne – Some not very scary pirates introduce small children to the delights of a pirate ship and life. Suitable for early years and pre schoolers.
Captain Yellowbelly: The Tale of the Terrible Pirate by Preston Rutt – Captain Yellowbelly is a hopeless pirate, quiveringly useless and terrified of everything. Will his clumsiness actually save the day?
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – Jim Hawkins meets Long John Silver in this classic tale of piratical derring do. Suitable for higher KS2 children. It could be used in small gobbets to teach to KS1 children, particularly the section about giving a fellow pirate, ‘The Black Spot’.
The House That Sailed Away by Pat Hutchins – Morgan is stuck in the house on a rainy day with his grumpy grandmother wailing about how she was robbed of the ball room dancing prize because someone put soap flakes on the dance floor. As everyone in the family starts to go stir crazy, there is a lurching noise, and their house breaks free of the rest of the houses in the road, and bobs off down the rain drenched street straight into an adventure on the high seas replete with pirates and cannibals.
My Granny is a Pirate by Val McDermid – A surprised and delighted family find out about their granny’s dark secret. She is a pirate, sailing the seven seas. This is a very amusing, rhyming tale of the reason for the unexpected spring in granny’s step.
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie – Probably the most famous pirate story of all time, with the possible exception of Treasure Island, this book of the boy who never grows up, and his amazing adventures in Neverland, never loses its charm. It is suitable to be read out loud to children from about the age of six upwards.