A Pirate’s Twelve Days of Christmas, by Philip Yates, illustrated by Sebastià Serra (2012)
For this fifth review of Christmas, I decided to go to the silly side…and there is very little sillier than a bunch of grinning pirates surprising the cabin boy with a variety of pirate-y gifts!
After a few rhyming couplets to introduce the story (the crew of a pirate ship leaves the cabin boy behind during “Christmastide” so they can go plunder and he can swab the decks), the song begins. The cabin boy wakes on the first morning to find a parrot in a palm tree (and the pirate responsible for the gift is grinning and hiding behind a barrel) and is inspired to sing! The second day, two cutlasses are added to his stash and his song (and that pirate is peeking up over the side of the ship). On the third day, three black cats arrive (and you can see their footprints coming from behind a tree where another pirate is hiding to watch her gift be received). Each day, another gift is added, another pirate (and you can identify them all from the small boats leaving the pirate ship at the beginning of the story) is watching gleefully as the cabin boy enjoys his surprise, and the scene gets crazier and crazier! Finally, on the twelfth day, the twelve absentee pirates themselves show up and wish the cabin boy a merry Christmas. They weigh anchor and head to bed so that “jolly ol’ Sir Peggedy” and his sleigh can visit. (There’s also a glossary in the back to help define any unfamiliar pirate terms!)
The illustrations for this book were drawn in “pencil and ink on parchment paper and then digitally colored.” The characters have almost a wooden doll look to them, and the progressive craziness fits the mood and contents of the book very well. There is so much to see in each picture that a simple read-through will not be enough for most young readers, and they will certainly want to spend time with the book on their own looking through all the pages.
GirlChild and BoyChild’s Reactions: Both GirlChild and BoyChild enjoyed this book. Thankfully, they have heard enough of me singing silly songs not to find my choral presentation off-putting, and GirlChild even joined in since she’s familiar with the tune (and can read along with the words). They both loved looking for the gifting pirate hiding somewhere in the picture before we moved on to the next round of gifts. We started by counting the items as they were added, but the pictures soon got so wild that we just went on singing instead. I’m sure that they will continue to find new silly parts in each picture as they reread the book on their own. Be prepared to burst into song with a pirate-y gusto when you share this read-aloud with kids from preschool to elementary age!
(The author and illustrator also teamed up on A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas, and it looks just as silly!)