Lewis, J. Patrick. Blackbeard the Pirate King. National Geographic, 2006. SBN 978-0792255857 32 pp. $16.95
Part biography, part legend and all poetry, this picture book defines the famed and feared dread pirate Captain Teach in all his swashbuckling glory. “Apprentice Pirate” tells of Teach’s early life, while “In the Wake of the Sloops” details spoils of plundered merchant ships in luxurious detail. Lewis conveys the romance of the high seas with vivacity and drama from the first (“…Teach heard them call longingly–/the sirens of the sea”) to the last (“…As he staggered, bloody, lifeless, to the boards”).
Occasionally, the rhyme scheme stretches the meter to discomfort, as in “The Queen Anne’s Revenge:” “‘The Brethren of the Coast,’” Pirates/No country could contain/loved stealing gold/And seas patrolled–/To a man they hated Spain.” For the most part, Lewis shows mastery of poetic forms and evocative command of language. The sextilla “The Blockade of Charleston” very effectively uses its galloping eight-syllable lines to convey the drama of Blackbeard’s tyrannization of a city for medical supplies.
The poems are accompanied by artist’s renditions of the pirate king. Works by Pyle, Wyeth and Schoonover are interspersed with more contemporary artists such as Farrell and Kelley. The mediums vary delightfully from woodcut to oils to acrylic, and each image seems perfectly matched to the depiction.
A historical footnote sets each tale in context. An author’s note, map and timeline add depth. Illustration credits are noted at the back, and a short bibliography of books and websites offers sources and further reading, making this an exceedingly well-documented volume of poetry. The pirate theme is sure to be popular; purchase to round out your poetry or pirate collection.