Ahoy, me hearties - here be laughter!
Pirates vs. Monsters by David Crosby and Lee Cosgrove
What's it about?
Three pirates meet in a tavern and exchange tall tales about various monsters they've encountered. They boast about their exploits and laugh at the unfortunate fates of the beasts they bested. The pirates are having a great time, until there's a loud knock on the door of the inn. I don't want to give too much away, but by the end of the story, the reader is left in no doubt about who has won the battle of pirates vs monsters.
What can we learn?
Always tell the truth because fibbing can get you into BIG trouble. Oh, and to beware of the Hockler, the Crunk and the Muncher!
What makes this story stand out? It has a theatrical quality, making it so much fun to read aloud. A fast-paced and exciting rhyming text builds up to a hilarious reveal at the end (which I won't spoil). It's brilliant how this plays with the reader's expectations. I was delighted to see a female pirate included in the dastardly trio and the illustrations are fabulous too.
About those illustrations...
The images are incredibly lively and contribute greatly to the drama and comedy. One of the most important spreads in the book has no words at all and relies entirely on the illustration to carry the plot forward. There's lots of amusing details like the eye-patch-wearing dog who can be seen lapping up spilled beer and dreaming of treasure chests filled with bones. The colour palette is gorgeous and really atmospheric. The tavern looks so cosy and I love the purple mist trailing in from the sea over the midnight blue of the sky and the ocean.
Why we love it...
Pirates vs Monsters is a wonderful example of the magic of picture books. It demonstrates the genius of this genre; how it's possible to do so much with limited words and pages, and how the illustrations are essential. I love how the story unfolds and how the pirates describe their foes and how they were outwitted. One of my favourite lines is when George (who is "round like an egg") says of the Muncher: "He ate my left leg but did not get my right."
Why you need it...
This fresh and original take on the traditional pirate story will make you and your family laugh out loud. Children will enjoy this and get caught up in the action, whether they are pirate-mad or not. It's quite short, so that when you inevitably get asked to read it several times in a row, it won't delay bedtime for too long!
About the author:
David Crosby is a former journalist and this is his first children's book. He spoke to the Northern Echo about competing against Julia Donaldson and other picture book giants for the prestigious Bishop's Stortford Picture Book Award. Pirates vs Monsters has since won the 2021 award - a fantastic achievement for a first-time author!
About the illustrator:
Lee Cosgrove has illustrated many children's fiction and non-fiction titles for a variety of publishers. His work has also appeared on greetings cards, puzzles, mobile apps, billboards and bus stops. Take a look at Lee's Instagram page for lots of fascinating glimpses of the creative process behind Pirates vs Monsters.