Thursday 21 June 2012

Review: Sam Silver - Undercover Pirate by Jan Burchett and Sara Vogler

Book 1: Skeleton Island

Sam Silver finds a gold doubloon which whisks him back in time to 1706. Suddenly he's on board a pirate ship - the Sea Wolf - with her fearsome captain and crew and sailing the Caribbean Sea. If Sam can't think of a very good reason why they should keep him alive, he'll be forced to walk the plank!

Book 2: The Ghost Ship

When Sam Silver and the crew of the Sea Wolf board a galleon looking for Spanish gold, they find it's already been stolen - by a ghost ship! Can our pirate heroes outwit a ghostly crew or is the treasure gone for ever?

Kids love pirates. Fact! Although I teach at secondary level many of my friends have kids in the 6-10 age range and nearly every one of them, boys and girls, is fascinated by pirates. Their parents tell me they are often getting non-fiction books about pirates out from the library, and they are always on the look out for pirate fiction. It is not an area I am expert on, although for the younger kids I have lost count how many time I have  recommended Jonny Duddle's The Pirate Cruncher and The Pirates Next Door to friends. Recently I received an email from the lovely people at Orion, asking if I would be interested in reading and reviewing the first books in their new pirate series, Sam Silver: Undercover Pirate, and I felt that it would be letting down my friends and their kids if I said no.

Sam Silver is like any typical boy. He lives in Backwater Bay, where his parents own a chip shop, and like many kids of his age he has a collection of found items. When he finds a bottle on the beach with a note rolled inside he assumes it to be a cry for help, and imagines the fame he would achieve if his discovery led to the rescue of a stranded person. However, on opening the bottle he finds a note written in 1705, and signed by Joseph Silver, Captain of the Sea Wolf. Excited at the thought he might be descended from a pirate, his elation is raised even further by the letters mention of  buried treasure. Also in the bottle is a gold doubloon, but when Sam shakes this out of the bottle it looks like just an old dull brown coin. On rubbing it though Sam  is given the surprise of his life as his world begins to spin, and when he lands again he finds himself back in 1706, on a genuine pirate ship, surrounded by genuine pirates.

Being a suspicious bunch the pirates are about to make Sam walk the plank because of his strange clothes and way of speaking, but his is saved by this fate as he stutters out his name, and the pirate captain proclaims him to the the grandson of Joseph Silver, a highly respected pirate who went missing a year earlier. So begin the piratical adventures of Sam Silver as he starts to win over the mistrusting pirates and they set of in search of the treasure mentioned in the letter.

Skeleton Island, and its equally enjoyable sequel The Ghost Ship, are perfect stories for pirate-fixated kids aged 6 and above. At about 140 pages each they are just the right length for children of this age, and they are littered with images that help fire young imaginations even further. Naturally, they wouldn't be proper pirate books if they didn't have maps printed in the front, and we all know how much kids love maps.

The stories are full of action and adventure, with Sam being thrown in at the deep end and having to evade rival bloodthirsty pirates, or navigate his way safely through Tortuga (anyone who knows anything about pirates has heard of Tortuga), whilst in between the action having to carry out his pirate duties like swabbing the deck and manning the crow's nest. With Sam being a 21st century boy sent back in time, this adds another layer of discussion for younger readers who will be able to relate to him very easily, and will probably daydream about what they would do if they were ever lucky enough to find a magic gold doubloon that sent them back in time.

Orion tell me there are more adventures planned for Sam Silver in the future, and there are currently a total of seven books listed over at Amazon, so if you have kids of this age I suggest you buckle your swashes, shiver your timbers and go out and get your hands on these first two adventures. Or you could come back here later this week and have the chance of winning one of three pairs of books that I will be giving away.

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