The Queen of the Pirate Isle

May 16, 2007


Remember how Little Old New York claimed to be “profusely illustrated”? Well, their definition of “profuse” clearly didn’t agree with mine. I’d be more inclined to apply the phrase to The Queen of the Pirate Isle, written by Bret Harte and illustrated by Kate Greenaway. In general, I like Greenaway’s work, and this batch of illustrations is very enjoyable, despite — or perhaps partly because of — the fact that the main character’s clothes seem to change period at random.

The Queen of the Pirate Isle is about an imaginative small girl named Polly, who, with her cousin Hickory, a small Chinese boy, and a neighbor, decides to run away to be a pirate. They end up falling asleep in a nearby mine — the story is set in San Francisco — and are awoken and brought home by the miners, who have dressed up as pirates as a sort of thank-you to Polly. See, on their way to the mine, the kids slipped and fell and Polly’s doll’s removable hair got caught on something and led the miners to a new seam of gold.

It’s a very charming book, but I get irritated by children’s books that are written from a point of view that seems to say, “Aren’t they cute? And isn’t it nice that I’m so much more grown up and sophisticated than they are?” Children’s books can be enjoyable for both children and adults without the author trying to show the adult that he’s really one of them, and not an overgrown kid. It’s so condescending.

I’ve put the illustrations up here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: