“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World • Middle-grade non-fiction (illustrated)

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World
Jane Yolen • illustrated by Christine Joy Pratt

July 2008 • CharlesbridgeMiddle-grade non-fiction (illustrated)
"Young pirate princesses (and princes) will be dazzled." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Story: Throughout the ages, women from all classes and walks of life turned to pirating out of necessity, desperation, or greed. Acclaimed author Jane Yolen examines the contradictions of these bold women’s lives and times. Meet Artemisia, the admiral-queen of Persia in 500 BC; Grania O’Malley, the Irish “pirate queen” who challenged Queen Elizabeth I’s British ships; Madame Ching, who sailed the South China Sea in the early 1800’s; and ten other female pirates on their ships, in battle, and in disguise.
The Story behind the story:
Jane Yolen writes: "I have been one of those 'pirate addled' readers since I first encountered Anne Bonney and Mary Read in seventh grade. When I wrote an earlier book on women pirates, there was little easily obtained information about them. I didn’t know then about Grania O’Malley, or Artemisia, or Teuta. In the over forty years since publication of that book, Pirates in Petticoats, scholars have done much work on the subject of women pirates. This book uses a lot of that new material." Just for fun: International Talk Like a Pirate Day is September 19th.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.


Jeanette Larson said...

I recently read this book and loved it! Much more information is available since Jane Yolen first started to write about female pirates. This is truly "multicultural" in that the pirates are from many countries and cultures and many times throughout history. Really gives new meaning to "girl power!"

Susan Mello said...

Society may envision that all pirates look like Captain Jack Sparrow but Jane Yolen gives a much different image in her book Sea Queens: Women pirates around the world. You have to appreciate how the author "speaks" to the reader. She informs without glorifying. She also keeps her language accessible to younger students without talking down or should I say "dumbing" down. The separate chapters about female pirates supports the statements at the beginning of the book.
I especially like how the author adds the boxes of information to document where she received the information or to enriching the reading experience. This will give students a good understanding of how and why we should document our sources. This book offers a bibliography, and index, and a list of helpful websites.
I would also like to mention the aesthetics of the book. The pages are made of heavier weight paper which gives the feel of an older richer document. The pages are a creamy white color which reinforces the antique feel. All of the text is solid black and the boxes of information are grayed without borders to inform the reader of additional information. Lastly, the illustrations done by Christine Joy Pratt, are crisp black and white drawings that enhance the learning experience.
I would give this book a 5. I strongly recommend this book to teachers and students with an interest in the history of pirates.

Tina Ristau, Elementary Media Specialist said...

Right now the kids who visit my library are very interested in pirates.
Jane Yolen's new book, Sea Queens, is a new release that adds a different twist to my collection. Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World focuses on females who made their living as pirates. I readily admit to a lack of knowledge on this topic, and each and every female that Yolen writes about was new and interesting to me. Yolen has done her research and includes information in little snippets about pirates in general and the women she specifically is writing about. This book could be read in it's entirety or chapters could be selected since each chapter is about a different woman. Yolen also includes a bibliography, index, and list of helpful websites for further research. Christine Joy Pratt's illustrations are a perfect fit for this book. Done in pen and ink on scratchboard, Pratt's work gives this book a feel of authenticity. I can see many students anxious to check this new book out.
-- Tina Ristau, Elementary Media Specialist, Irving Elementary,
Waterloo, Iowa

Matt W. said...

Author: Jane Yolen
Lexile Score: 1040
Genre: History/ Historical Fiction/ Mythology
Maturity level: 6th grade
Pages: 120 Chapters: 12 (basically each chapter is a different pirate) Average Chapter Length: 10 pages
Theme: Piracy!
Project ideas: This book could be used as a tool, researching FOR a project
First Line: A Pirate is a robber who roams the oceans of the world.
Main Character: Several Women Pirates - perhaps the main character is danger!
Review in 25 words or less: Accessible introduction to a curious subject: the woman pirate. Interesting, well-written, and full of beautiful woodcuts. Yolen keeps careful track of the truth, the myth and the embellishment; spares no detail no matter how gory.
Grade: A-
Sea Queens by Jane Yolen is a retro-looking, fact-filled voyage through the history of women who terrorized the seas as pirates. Not exactly common subject matter! Yolen breaks the book down by chapters - each taking on a specific story of a legendary pirate. She is careful to keep you aware of the facts and exxagerations - much of what we can read about pirates has been fictionalized and obscured the truth. But true or not, the stories of these women are astounding! They are vengeful theives, liars and murderers. Ranging from 500BC to Colonial times, the stories are told concisely enough to take you right into the meaty parts: so-and-so was born in France, and one day she dressed up as a man and stole a gun to sneak aboard a dreaded pirate vessel.
The book is wonderfully arranged - the page spreads are filled with sidebars of poems, lyircs, and little-known facts; a perfectly suited non-typical format for readers who like to have their eyes jump around the page. The book is also filled with important details about weapons and ships used specific to each pirate's story. The woodcuts are beautiful, full of symbolism and simple enough to still allow your imagination to create the images of these great, terrible pirates.
For book club, this actually would make a good nonfiction choice. Students would definitely need each other to process the stories, and extra research and map reading to fully grasp the stories. And the organization of each chapter focusing on one pirate makes good sense. Personally, I struggle with reading nonfiction books stright through - it took me a few sittings to get through all the pirates. However, I know many students love nonfiction, and reading this one with a book club would help keep everyone focused and entrenched in the learning. For the picnic basket, I give this book a 4. I don't think you're going to find a better middle grade nonfiction text on female pirates.

Susan O'Connell said...

This book is a masterpiece, from its thoroughly researched and well documented storyline, to its rich and detailed illustrations reminiscent of woodcuts. The heavy pages,old-fashioned typeface, and heavy faux-leather cover transport the reader back to an older time, when the pirates of which we read roamed the seas.

Pirates fascinate many of my readers. This book with stories of many women pirates, as well as informative sidebars about piracy, will be a popular addition. I particularly appreciate the bibliography and index, any book that children want to read and that includes these important teaching tools is a winner with me.

Susan O'Connell
School Librarian

Mary Kirk, Elementary School Librarian said...

Reviewed by Mary Kirk, Sherwood Forest Elementary School, Winston-Salem, NC

This is my first review for The Picnic Basket. I chose Sea Queens because pirate books are very hot in my elementary school media center. I also like that it is about women pirates, who are usually mentioned as an afterthought.
Many readers will choose the book when they see the eye-catching cover. Too bad the illustrations inside are not also in color. The ink drawings are well done and interesting, but imagine how beautiful the book would have been if the inside illustrations were also in color.
The sidebars throughout the book give a lot of additional interesting information. This information might be enjoyed more by parents reading the book then the kids. This widens the interest level of the book.
I like that the pirates are arranged chronologically rather than alphabetically. That gives readers an idea of the long history of women pirates. Women such as
Artemisia must have been very famous indeed, to have lived from 500 - 480 B.C. and still be making the history books. I also like that women pirates all over the world are included, and not just those who preyed on ships in the Atlantic Ocean. As our world shrinks, our breadth of knowledge will need to expand.
Jane Yolen did what good nonfiction authors do and included an index. She also included a lengthy bibliography. Some writers for children might have skipped this step, leaving readers wondering where to find more information on the subject. Of the twenty-nine titles in the bibliography, six are available in my midsized city’s public library. I don’t feel like that is too bad, considering how deeply Yolen must have delved into history to find information about many of these long-ago pirates.
Three websites are included in Sea Queens for further reading. Of the three listed, only RootsWeb provides information that will likely be beneficial to elementary school readers. Like the sidebars, the websites may be more interesting to adults.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. Sea Queens will be a great addition to the pirate books in my media center. I feel certain it will circulate widely and readers will come away more informed about pirates. I rate the book a 4. I will probably not use Sea Queens in a lesson, but I will certainly promote and recommend the book.

Tasses said...

Sea Queens tells the stories of thirteen infamous female pirates in an enlightening manner with sidebar clarifications and added tidbits that are perfect for your pirate’s collection, something the kids are clamoring for since pirates went Disney.

Jane Yolen gives us girl villains and treachery that can stand up to their male counterparts. She does a good job separating what we know and what must be left to speculation with regard to the sketchy details of pirating. The sidebar additions of geography, history, facts and rumors add depth and spark further interest. Illustrator Christine Joy Pratt’s woodcut style illustrations add much delight.

It’s especially helpful that the pirates are depicted in chronological order lending reference to the historical context of piracy. The end features a bibliography, as well as websites, for further research. The large text is fairly simple and, though I’ve not completed a readability count, I suspect it would work well with the early independent reader while meeting the interest level for an older student with an interest in pirate lore.

Jane Yolan has written two additional pirate themed books which might work well in a compare and contrast context:The Ballad of the Pirate Queens & Pirates In Petticoats.

A stunning addition to Yolen’s fantastic body of work and a must for pirate book collector’s Sea Queens is a book you’ll want to check out.
(4/5 rating)

I have also posted this commentary on my website, The Wild Rumpus Starts, and Library Thing.

Teacher Tasses, Reading Specialist
M.S. in Reading Education

Anonymous said...

This title would be a great starting point to research the history of women, their place in society, or even geography. Lots of information and folklore about pirates is included. But there is so much more information about pirates that could not be included in this beautiful book that it will make many students anxious to know more. So, have plenty of pirate books on hand to help quench their thirst for pirate information.

Sea Queens definitely deserves to be the potata salad at my picnic (a rating of 4).

Nan Hoekstra said...

A fine weaving of history, lore, poetry, fashion, and art is presented accessibly and invitingly to both the curious and serious seeker of information about pirates in this beautiful volume. All the elements of a good children's book are represented here - from a strong cover, thick pages, well spaced text, shaded added interest boxes, maps, a fine package. This is a good addition to the pirate collection at my public library; it will go out - the pictures are not gory - some books are much more so. I will recommend this one for its scholarship and implied invitations for further research and investigation. I rate it a 4.

Ms. Wojo said...

Several weeks ago I found the Picnic Basket, a blog that features new kid lit and offers teachers and librarians the opportunity to get complimentary copies of those books in exchange for reviews. I chose Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World by Jane Yolen.

On the Picnic-Basket scale, I'd give it a 4. I enjoyed most of the book, but some of the profiles were a bit short.

I loved the sidebars throughout the book that explain pirate terminology or give extra tidbits of history. "The Pirate's Code" and "Pirate or Privateer?" are especially good. My favorite profile was of 16th century Irish pirate Grania O'Malley. Lots of colorful detail and great information about what historians do and do not know about the real Grania. The chapters on Artemisia and Madame Ching give a non-European experience of pirating; this helps make the book more well-rounded. The roundup of Sea Queens that historians don't know much about is a nice touch and the bibliography is excellent.

I'd like to see Yolen expand the chapter on Anne Bonney and Mary Read into a book. It's a fascinating story and one that I can see students getting in to.

This is also published at eztechintegration.blogspot.com

Betsy Smith, Peacham Library said...

I Strongly Recommend this book for all juvenile history collections and to the parents and friends of any girls and boys the least interested in pirates and pirating.

Sea Queens draws the reader in immediately as it lists all the “truths” about pirates and then, wham!, states “But wait – not all of that is true.” I was hooked! What follows is a
considered description of several “pirate queens” and what is known about them. With Sea Queens Yolen has written history rather than fiction, but history that acknowledges, left, right, and center, that the distinction between history and fiction is often exceedingly blurry.

Pratt’s illustrations are intelligent and enticing and the structure of the book allows one to pick and choose how to approach it. You can just read the text and learn the stories of the women described. Or read the many sidebars as well and learn much more. Or use the text and the sidebars to guide one into further exploration of the subjects touched upon.

My one gripe: Not enough maps. There are a few small ones, but each Sea Queen should have her own map and there should be a larger world map that identifies the location of each of the smaller maps. I advise anyone who reads the book with kids to bring along maps to use for this purpose.

Do read this book and do buy it for your library or school!

Betsy Smith
Peacham Library
Peacham, Vermont

Linda said...

This book contains thirteen female pirates with a wide range of infamy and evil doings, listed in chronological order starting in 500 BC and continuing through the early 19th century. Lots of white space surround the print with lots of added information such as maps to help the reader discover where each woman was activie; as well as an explanation of terms that the reader might not otherwise know. The illustrations by Christine Joy Pratt are made to resemble wood cuts which fits perfectly with the style of the book. This is an update of her first book "Pirates in Petticoats" and would make excellent replacement for libraries- both school and public.
I would rate this book 4 baskets.

Mrs. Laabs said...

More an elemantary grades book than for middle level. Great resource about women and thier roles in history. I like how the author did not pretend to be the definitive expert on the topic but showed how history is not always black and white.

I would not necessarily use this in the classsroom but some students may find it interesting reading.

Lori said...

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World by: Jane Yolen

Rating: 4

Pirates are a very popular topic with the children in my class right now. I think it is the "Pirates of the Caribbean" phenomena. When I saw the story about female pirates, I was intrigued!

This was a great read! There was a lot of history woven into the rich, fascinating stories. Girls and boys alike will enjoy the stories and the history behind them. I really like the boxes with background information to help better understand the material in the stories.

I will fully admit I didn't know much about female pirates before reading this book, but I feel like I learned a lot!

Christin Joy Pratt's illustrations were beautifully done. The dramatic, black and white drawings really compliment the stories.

Lori Stolaski, Teacher
St. Thomas Aquinas Academy
Milwaukee, WI

Brannin said...

What a wonderful idea for a book. Go Girl Power! Jane Yolen really did her homework. I liked how fun facts and points of information were scattered throughout the book. The chapters were interesting and easy to read.

I rate this a 4.5

Brannin Dorsey
Kindergarten Teacher
Fremont, CA

Deborah Muldawer said...

Yolen has done it again. Combining her interest in literature and history, she has created a fascinating account of the history of female pirates.

The pirates come from numerous countries and centuries, from wealth and poverty, from pirating families to nobility and while murder and mayem are perhaps not the best use of strength, it is still thrilling to see these women lead and form their own destinies during times when women were largely subservient and lacking in rights.

To add to her fascinating tales, Yolen includes sidebars with relevant vocabulary and historical information.

Yolen's text is offset perfectly by Pratt's skillful black and white drawings that create an illusion of an earlier time.

With classrooms stressing diversity, this is a great read for all students and especially for middle school girls, who are trying to find their own center of power.

Rachel, middle school teacher said...

Rating 4: I loved this book and am now trying to figure out how to fit it in to my plans for this year. Yolen takes readers on a trip through time and around the world in this book. Although most of the profiles are fairly short they provide a wonderful starting point for mini-research projects and Yolen's Helpful Websites page provides readers with access to more information. As a Canadian teacher I am looking forward to learning more about Gertrude Imogene Stubbs.

Readingislove said...

I teach 8th grade and I will definitely put this in my classroom library.

Pirates are a popular thing right now for students and it's nice to see something different (female pirates) out there for the students to look at.

I would rate this a 4.

Allyn Hunt said...

I absolutely loved Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World. It would be a wonderful addition to any grades 3-5 teacher library. Information about female pirates or about other strong female during this time period really does not exist in such an inviting form as this one. I agree with Susan Mello's comment about showing students the helpful list of websites, the bibliography, and index. Personally, I loved the sidebars with the tidbits of information which leads to further understanding and comprehension. I will also use and encourage others to use it as a read-aloud resource. I think even my eighth graders will enjoy it.

Allyn Hunt
8th Grade Language Arts
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Zion Lutheran School Library. said...

I can't wait to add 'Sea Queens' to our library shelves. I know it will be popular with our
readers who can never seem to get enough of pirates. The book is easy to read with each chapter presenting the story of a different female pirate. This would be a great resource for spurring point-of-view writing, either from the perspective of the female pirate herself or from the perspective of one of her male shipmates. Since the pirates are from different geographic areas, 'Sea Queens' also offers a window into different countries, their history, and their culture. 'Sea Queens' makes an excellent pirate resource that can be used in the classroom or simply as a fun recreational read. I give it a 5!

Karen Sutera
Zion Lutheran School
Marengo, IL

Anonymous said...

This book was intriguing from the get go. The women that were portrayed in the different chapters had a captivating storyline throughout. This book presents a fresh look at women's place in history and will be an enjoyable read by all middle schoolers.
Rating- 4
Mark Westerlund/ Language Arts 7

Anonymous said...

I recommend without reservation this book. Jane Yolen has brought to life a variety of women who led unconventional lives. This book will hold an appeal to history lovers of all ages. The subject of pirates has become quite popular and knowing that women were pirates too will give the students who pick this book up a whole new perspective on the subject.

Theresa G said...

I liked the cover of the book - a real "classic" feel. The book outlines the lives of 13 female pirates or "sea queens" throughout history. The pages have nice illustrations and some text boxes with additional information that are helpful. I was a bit disappointed in how dry the text seemed at times - would have liked a bit more voice to show through. But overall - I think that intermediate students would enjoy the book and it would make a nice classroom reference.

thereadingzone said...

I just posted a review!



Cynthia said...

In "Sea Queens," Yolen renders complex history into simply and smoothly told [her]story for young scholars. Large print and delightful wood block illustrations make the book attractive even to reluctant readers. The Table of Contents, maps, sidebars, bibliography, index, and list of related websites provide ease of use and opportunities for extended research. Lowry's biographies of individual pirates are interesting and not overwhelming; she has digested the sometimes conflicting primary and secondary sources into accessible prose for young readers and 'tweens; readers feel like we're getting the whole story through her words.

Better for grade 6 and 7 classrooms, "Sea Queens" still deserves shelf space in the 8th grade classroom library.

Rating: 4

--Cynthia L. Winfield, teacher Massachusetts certified in English 6-12 and Reading K-12

Mrs. Kondrick said...

I have always loved Jane Yolen as an author. I was once again, not disappointed. First, the aesthetics of the book. It is a book students will love to hold in their hand. The illustrations are amazing, and can even envision the art teacher using it to discuss the history of the block imprint style. The book itself is full of short interesting biographies of strong women who span time as well as seas. I plan to use this as an introduction to biographies, since most of the stories are only a few pages long, I can model note taking, and the multimedia reports (from readwritethink) that I expect them to use when they finish longer biographies. Another nice thing about the book is by the second page I was wondering about the meaning of a few of the pirate specific vocabulary, then low and behold, on the third page Ms Yolen gave me a sidebar with definitions! Bravo!

Karen Kondrick
Literacy Coach
Ripley Central School
Ripley, NY

Lisa S said...

I will be using this book for years to come in my classroom! It was a great read, I really loved using a piratey voice while reading it...my students found this pretty funny as well.

The biographies in this book are perfect for students working with biographical information for the first time. I also love the fact that this book is a great read for girls, something out of the norm, but really interesting.

Jane Yolen continues to create top notch books for children. The biographical content was great, the definitions were helpful, and the illustrations by Christine Joy Pratt were spectacular.

I would recommend this book to anyone, it was a great read.

Picnic Basket Rating: 5+

kgb said...

Who can resist a book about pirates? Even better women pirates!
Jane Yolen tells the rousing stories of 13 villainous women pirates. Their stories are arranged in chronological order from Artemisia (500 BC) to Madame Ching (early 1800s). The pirates come from all walks of life and from all over the world.
Yolen debunks many pirate myths (walking the plank) and tries to seperate fact from fiction, noting that most of what we know about the pirates did not come from the pirates themselves.
The stories of the 13 women are enhanced by wood cut style illustrations. Sidebars give additional information about piracy, geography and even some songs associated with the pirates. There is also a list of additional women pirates, though not much information is available about some of them. Yolen has included a bibliography, an index and a list of websites The large type and page layout make this accessible for younger or reluctant readers.
An informative and fun read.