Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Review - The Pirate Tree

The Pirate Tree
by Brigita Orel
illustrated by Jennie Poh
Date: 2019
Publisher: Lantana Publishing
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

The gnarled tree on the hill sometimes turns into a pirate ship. A rope serves as an anchor, a sheet as a sail, and Sam is its fearless captain. But one day another sailor approaches, and he's not from Sam's street. Can they find something more precious than diamonds and gold? Can they find... friendship?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book made me a little uncomfortable. It supposedly depicts a new friendship, but I was distracted by the obvious power imbalance.

Sam has a tree that she imagines is a pirate ship. One day, a boy named Agu shows up. He's new in town and wants to play. But Sam isn't interested... until she finds out that Agu is from Nigeria and knows lots of stuff she doesn't.

The problem is, at the end, rather than being equals, the book refers to Agu as Sam's "new crew member". She's still the captain. She's still in charge... even though Agu obviously knows more about ships and sailing. It comes across as white privilege.

The illustrations don't really excite me, either. They're a little rough for my taste, and for pictures that are supposed to show two children's imaginations, they don't seem quite fanciful enough. Aside from the accessorized birds and fish, there's not much that really struck me as being that imaginative.

I didn't like this as much as I hoped I would. What tries to be a book about new friendships and inclusion seems to inadvertently reinforce old societal mores (the white kid is in charge, despite being less qualified than the black kid, and almost seems to be using his expertise for her own gain). This could've worked better had the ethnicities been swapped, or if it had simply been about a more generic new kid in town rather than an immigrant. As it is, though, it opens up a few cans of worms that distract from what the book was trying to do: tell a story about friendship, acceptance, and imagination.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.33 out of 5 ladybugs

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