Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dirty Joe the Pirate: A True Story by Bill Harley

Dirty Joe the Pirate: A True Story by Bill Harley, illustrated by Jack E. Davis

Rating: 5 stars

Rarely am I really surprised by a book.  This one got me.  In a great, great, much-needed way.

Lorelei and Ben were sitting in my lap, Lorelei's wet-from-the-bath hair was soaking my shirt, but I was happy she chose this book, unknown to me.  I started it with my best pirate accent...

Bill Harley whittles witty rhymes out of an already humorous story: Dirty Joe is a pirate captain who likes to steal his enemy's socks.
The socks he took from other ships, you'll be surprised to learn,
He tied upon his rigging lines that stretched from bow to stern.
They flapped and fluttered in the breeze, five hundred little flags--
And the smell that those old socks gave off was enough to make you gag.
They soon see another pirate ship, to which they set their sights, eager to gain even more stinky socks for their ship.  They look at it and notice that this pirate ship also has a whole lot of flags flapping along, but they don't think much of it...yet.  As they approach, they realize that this pirate ship has a female captain, and an entirely female crew.
"It's Stinky Annie," someone said, "and her band of smelly varmints.
She captures every boat she can and takes their undergarments."
"Then all is lost," another said.  "We haven't got a chance.
You can't be a pirate if you don't have underpants."
I love this!  A band of women pirates who are just as stinky and brazen and full of arrrrghs like the boys!  As the two ships come together and the fight started (there are some pirates with swords and knives, but most have creative weapons: a fly-swatter, a broom, a toaster, a tennis racket).  Soon, Dirty Joe and his boys realize they are fighting in vain: the girls don't have any socks on!

They continue the fight anyway until the two captains give each other the one-eye (literally; they each wear an eye patch).
Stinky Annie lowered her sword.  They peered at one another.
"Wait," she said, "I see it now--you're Joe, my little brother."
"That's right," said Joe.  "You're sister Ann, you bounced me on your knee.
Put down your sword, give up this fight.  Please don't do this to me!"
I thought this was the ending--one of an amicable handshake full of sibling love, an image I'd like my kids to have.  (Well, I hope their handshakes involve hands rather than hooks.)  But Annie throws a curve ball.  Nope, she still wants their underwear!  Hand 'em over!

The illustration by Jack Davis, by the way, is great: chuckling, victorious, sockless female pirates and humiliated, frowning male pirates all wearing barrels to protect their modesty.  And the last stanza, which left me cracking up then in the hallway with my trio, because I knew it to be true more than those two little brothers Ben and Kiefer:
That's the finish of this tale.  It's silly and it's done.
But there's a lesson here that I'd impart to everyone:
If you've got an older sister, then I feel bad for you,
'Cause just as long as she's alive, she'll tell you what to do.
So, so, SO true!  I am cracking up again--because my purse at this very moment is a list my big sister wrote for me today of the things I need to have done by the time I see her again on Thanksgiving.  Ha!

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