Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

All aboard, me hearties!

Posted on | April 14, 2011 | 13 Comments

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:

  • What shall we do with the drunken sailor, in versions by The Windjammers and another by Tim Hart
  • Yo Ho Ho (and a bottle of Rum) from the Disney allbum Pirates Of The Caribbean – Swashbuckling Sea Songs
  • Pirate or Parrot by The Flannery Brothers
  • Isthmus Be The Pirate Waltz by Dean Jones and the Felice Brothers. Click here for the fun video via Zooglobble.
  • Pieces of 8ight by Captain Bogg & Salty (who I discovered because they’ve been likened to a band I like, The Decemberists)


  • Other boat and pirate activities which could work well alongside Pirate House Swap include:

  • Decorating and sailing boats with flags and pennants galore, just like we did in this post almost a year and a half ago.
  • Borrowing any of the ideas from Honeyflake’s pirate party – I particularly like their loot for the treasure hunt!
  • Making a treasure map – there are some easy instructions here from the BBC.


  • I’m sure there are lots more good ideas in Pirate Things to Make and Do (Usborne Activities) – thanks @Catnipbooks for the suggestion.

    For a slightly different take on Pirate House Swap you might like Nayu’s review over at her blog.

    Do you have a favourite pirate book, activity or song?

    Share and Enjoy:
    • Digg
    • del.icio.us
    • Facebook
    • StumbleUpon
    • Technorati
    • Twitter

    Comments

    13 Responses to “All aboard, me hearties!”

    1. Susan Stephenson, the Book Chook
      April 14th, 2011 @ 10:32 am

      Well, maybe the girls are a little young for Gilbert and Sullivan, but my favourite pirate songs are those from Pirates of Penzance! And I still have a soft spot in my heart for Captain Pugwash books and the lovely little cartoon on TV. Such minimal animation but very cute.

    2. Deb
      April 14th, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

      I don’t do pirates, but I love the idea of the house swap, that could lead in so many different directions!

      And I’m in awe of the way you do so many fun games, I wish you were my Mum :)

    3. Zoe
      April 14th, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

      Oh yes! When I was about 12 or 13 my dad was in Pirates of Penzance and so I got to learn all the songs by listening to him! Lots of fun :-) We have one copy, much loved,of Pugwash from my youth. Recently tried to get original animations but couldn’t – new ones are out but they get terrible reviews :-(

    4. Choxbox
      April 14th, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

      Echoing Deb – wish you were my mpm or at least my children’s mom!

      And this post took me straight to the Princess Diana playground in Hyde Park! We have had tons of fun (and countless pictures) playing in the sandpit in the ginormous ship there!

    5. Choxbox
      April 14th, 2011 @ 6:26 pm
    6. Zoe
      April 14th, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

      Thanks Choxbox for your kind words and the link. That ship looks great fun to play on.

    7. Zoe
      April 14th, 2011 @ 8:11 pm

      Thankyou Deb! you’re a great source of inspiration to me too :-) So many great project that you do with your kids.

    8. Katie
      April 15th, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

      I love the eye patch, and serious pirate expression! Great post!

    9. Zoe
      April 15th, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

      Thanks Katie! J (the littlest pirate) can be pretty serious when she wants to be :-)

    10. Cheryl Rainfield
      April 16th, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

      This sounds like a fun (and funny) read–and I like your activities for kids, especially the flag. Thank you for telling us about it.

    11. Abie Longstaff
      April 25th, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

      Thanks for the lovely review of my book – the photos of your girls arrrr great! Abie x

    12. Zoe
      April 25th, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

      Thanks Abie! So glad you found Playing by the book, and thank *you* for inspiring our play! That means a lot to us.

    13. Andrew
      March 4th, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

      Wow, what an imagination inspiration! As an artist and teacher of young children I am very much in favour of this pretend and do approach. Excellent review Maybe try making my sailor puppets for the pirate ship at http://www.andrewherridge.co.uk ?
      Andrew recently posted..Where to find the puppets?

    Leave a Reply





    CommentLuv badge

  • Coming soon – new adventures

  • Categories