I recently attended a fabulous webinar by Empathy Lab UK, and there was much discussion around how we teach empathy through picture books, not just to children, but also their parents and carers. People can have prejudices they don’t even realise are there until presented with alternatives That is exactly what new book The Pirate Mums does, written by Jodie Lancet-Grant, illustrated by Lydia Corry, published by Oxford University Press. Welcome to my stop on the blog tour!
I recently had the absolute pleasure of chatting to Jodie with my Sheffield Libraries colleague Liz Chapman, and we had a really fascinating chat about picture book publishing, LGBTQ+ representation in books and much more! You can listen to that now on the Sheffield Libraries Podcast.
Billy is embarrassed by his Mums, they’re always doing silly things like dancing jigs, owning crazy pet parrots, navigating with dusty old maps and have crazy interior design taste. All quite normal for a couple of pirates, but his Mums stand out and Billy hates it!! On the latest school trip Billy’s Mums come along and in an attempt to make him feel better they try to fit in. But when a huge storm hits while out on the open seas, Billy’s Mums and their incredible pirate skills are put to good use and all of sudden he’s feeling pride for these amazing parents of his!
This is Jodie’s first published book, but it’s quite clear she has a familiarity with the publishing industry, because everything about this is pitched perfectly. The storytelling here is fantastic, with structure, build up, excitement and surprises, and a host of funny characters, it’s everything a child could want when they choose a picture book off the shelves. But there’s something extra special about this book. The Pirate Mums has to be one of the first of its kind, a picture book which contains a same sex parent family presented in a purely incidental fashion. It’s actually a brilliantly fun, silly, action packed story about parental embarrassment and epic female pirates, who also just happen to be gay. It’s not stated, it’s not a thing, they’re just there being awesome and I love that!!
There’s a risk that this becomes the main theme of reviews and blog posts. But it’s important that this book is recognised for being a brilliant pirate fest of a story.
And that’s how it should be shouldn’t it? We should be celebrating stories that contain diverse characters, whether they be same sex, cultural, religious, physical representations of our society as it truly is today as just great books that happen to have a host of brilliant humans in them. They should be across more of our books, and in a way it’s sad that this is a new and fairly unique example, but it’s also a sign that things are perhaps getting better!! That children from alternative families can start to see themselves in books they read. And perhaps even more importantly, their friends do too, showing them that their family, and their life is not unusual. You only need to glance at author, Jodie’s instagram page to see how much her own children relish this book she created with them in mind. Seeing their own family represented is a powerful thing.
Let’s dive down to the ins and outs of The Pirate Mums me hearties, because it’s a treasure. Jodie’s writing is hilarious, it’s apparent that she’s had a HUGE amount of fun with the pirate theme. The storytelling is clear and perfectly paced and the language incredibly expressive and fun, containing jokes that made even this jaded grown up laugh. There are lots of exclamations and speech bubbles for added excitement and exploration of the story. I’m itching to be able to read this story out loud at a story time soon as it’s one of those books begging to be hammed up!!
It’s never just about the words though, in a picture book. the crucial partnership with the illustrator can make all the difference, and it certainly does in this case. Lydia Corry has an illustrative style that is so fresh and modern. Where books representing gay characters in the past have often seemed dated or uninspiring, this is a fresh and vibrant book that comfortably sits, yet stands out, on our shelves. I mean kids will, I’m sure be drawn to, and love it!
Lydia uses a really interesting colour palette, with just a small selection of key colours, allowing the character expressions to do a lot of the talking. But, as the story progresses she ramps up the vibrancy and by the end we have full on rainbow glory, and it’s spectacular! It’s almost like Billy’s pride is bursting out of the very pages. Really beautifully done!
In a book where sexuality isn’t stated through the writing, the illustrations are perhaps more key than ever. We have same sex parents, Mums, who are strong, energetic, boss pirates, ruling the waves and exuding self confidence. And for young children who perhaps can’t read yet, or for those who just need a visual, it couldn’t get more perfect. Every child would see this and want humans like them in their lives.
There are many much loved book themes and pirates is absolutely one of them! Children love them!! They also love exciting stories, crazy happenings, unique characters. Fundamentally we want children to want to read books! And this is how we do it! The Pirate Mums is the book children will want to read, and the book we want parents and children to read!
The Pirate Mums is an epic adventure perfect for ages 0 – 100. It’s a joyous and funny book which represents! Batten down the hatches, avast ye and get ready for the read of your life!
The Pirate Mums is released on June 3rd, 2021 and will be available from all good bookshops and libraries. You can support my blog and your local bookshop at the same time by ordering a copy through my Bookshop.org affiliate link. (thank you).
Big thanks to OUP for sending me a copy of this book for my honest opinion, and thank you for reading this Book Monster review.