The Pirate Captain’s Daughter

The Pirate Captain’s Daughter, by Eve Bunting, was another library whim. I usually don’t even browse the YA section anymore, but this one was part of the new books display by the check-out counter.

15-year old Catherine has known for a while that when her father leaves for his business trips at sea, he is really captaining a pirate ship. After her mother dies, she begs her father to let her accompany him, eager for the romance of a life at sea rather than stuffy days with a forbidding aunt. Females, however, are notoriously bad luck on board and a direct violation of the code. If Catherine is discovered, she risks both her life and her father’s. She must cut her hair, change her name to Charlie, and play her flute in the pirate band. Being on board the ship is a big adjustment not made any easier by two crew members. One is the hulking giant Herc, whom Catherine recognizes as the man who broke into her house looking for something the night before they left. The other is William, the handsome cabin boy who has decided to watch over the captain’s son.

This is my first YA book in a while and there are times when I really do feel too old for the genre, especially as I teach high school. I think this book was one of those times. I used to read a lot of Eve Bunting’s books, and I don’t want to say she’s just getting older because The Pirate Captain’s Daughter really is well researched and has good characterization. I think the problem is more with me.

In some ways I’m a lot like Catherine–the premise of pirates promises lots of romance, but the reality is crude and cruel. Eve Bunting creates a vivid and realistically unglamorous portrayal of life on a pirate ship, down to the harsh language and magotty bread. I really am way too much of a girl to handle that kind of lifestyle (which explains why I never liked The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, either). However, I think she was very smart to have Catherine be part of the ship’s band rather than try to pass as a cabin boy. It made it much more believable for her to go undetected. I hadn’t even known that most pirate ships did have constant music for when they were working, though I suppose it makes sense to lighten the tasks.

The romance between Catherine and William was what made me decide to check out the book (I’m a sucker for Williams since Pirates of the Caribbean). For most of the book, however, it does take a back seat to the rest of the plot, understandably so since William doesn’t know Catherine is a girl. Eve Bunting makes us wonder early on if he is a just pirate, like Catherine’s father, or simply another ruffian out for blood and gold.

For pirate fans The Pirate Captain’s Daughter would be a great read, and timely with the fourth Jack Sparrow movie. If, like me, you prefer swashbuckling to grit, it might be better to search elsewhere.

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Published in: on June 30, 2011 at 11:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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