A month or so ago, I came across some wonderfully inspiring images of a pirate themed bedroom, and as fate would have it the very same week Pirate House Swap by Abie Longstaff, illustrated by Mark Chambers arrived through my letter box. The coincidence couldn’t have been sweeter!
Every year the Clark family spend their holidays at home in the city, but this year they decide to try something new – a house swap. Believing they’ve found the perfect seaside retreat they set off, only to be somewhat surprised to discover their holiday home is a pirate galleon.
The family set about learning the pirate ways necessary to enjoy life on the ocean waves, including how to sleep in a hammock and navigate by the stars. Back in the city the pirates are equally intrigued but willing to give the land lubbers’ life a go, learning about the delights of vacuum cleaners and ovens.
By the end of the holidays both families have had a wonderful time but when they return to their homes things are not quite as they were left, and although the Clark family set about putting things back to rights, they do not completely give up their newly adopted pirate ways.
This story is a dream come true for many children! I’m sure my children are not the only ones who would jump at chance to holiday on a real pirate ship.
The illustrations contain lots of fun details for listeners to point out, including cheeky mice on most pages getting up to all sorts of mischief. However, I did feel that some of the details were included more for adult readers than the intended listening audience (for example, the adverts for other possible house swaps are in tiny print and refer to fairy tale locations). If you like the Shrek movies because they contain in-jokes for the grown-ups you’ll like the similar details in Pirate House Swap.
Pirate House Swap is a fun read in the run up to holidays and has a great theme about learning to adapt to new circumstances and to enjoy different ways of life so I’d definitely recommend picking this book up if you find it at the library. That said, Pirate House Swap does not dislodge our favourite pirate book from its place on the shelves – The Night Pirates by Peter Harris, illustrated by Deborah Allwright.
Having seen the photos of the pirate bedroom, and then fallen in love with the idea of living on a pirate galleon, I was set the challenge of helping the girls transform M’s bed into their own pirate ship.
First task was to design a flag to fly. Using an old pillow case and the very-easy-to-use Berol fabric crayons the girls each set about creating a flag to hoist. In the meantime I created a flagpole out of a broomstick, a pulley and a length of sash window cord.
The pulley was screwed into the top of the broom handle and the length of cord formed a loop over the pulley and down through a hole drilled through the broomstick near the bottom. The flag of choice was attached using safety pins (with some cardboard inserted inside the pillow case to make it fly proudly) and then it was hoisted high!
Next the pirates needed some suitable attire. We made cutlasses following these great instructions from Filth Wizardry guest posting at Alphamom. Eye patches were made from an oval of black cardboard with a loop of elastic attached to the back. Bug magnifiers were used as telescopes!
Finally, I screwed a pulley into a joist in M’s ceiling and used a yoghurt tub and more sash window cord to create a little hoisting system so the pirates could haul their treasure and supplies on to their ship.
The girls loved the opportunity to fight off marauders and terrify any unsuspecting sailors drifting past!
(On a health and safety note, the hoisting rope and flag pole have not been left up to be played with unattended – loose ropes of some considerable length + young children = not a safe combination.)
Whilst playing at pirates we listened to lots of great pirate music including:
Other boat and pirate activities which could work well alongside Pirate House Swap include:
Do you have a favourite pirate book, activity or song?