HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot
Author: Caroline Carlson
Illustrator: Dave Phillips
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2013
Related websites: http://www.carolinecarlsonbooks.com (author), http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com (publisher)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Carlson, Caroline. The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot (published in 2013 by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 10 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY 10022). Hillary Westfield is a twelve-year-old girl who lives in Augusta, a land where piracy is considered an honorable occupation, or at least a very nearly honorable one, and where magic ore has been mined and turned into all kinds of objects such as coins and crochet hooks. However, many years ago, the Enchantress of the Northlands gathered up all the magic objects that she could find and hid them away. Then she disappeared. Only a few such objects were left in the hands of High Society people, and these are now being stolen by someone who wants to use them to find the hidden treasure. Hillary wants to be a pirate more than anything in the world, but the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates doesn’t take girls, and besides her father is James Westfield, the Admiral of Augusta’s Royal Navy, who hates pirates and has sworn to end piracy.
After being sent to Miss Eugenia Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies, Hillary escapes with her magic talking gargoyle and joins the crew of Jasper Fletcher, a freelance pirate who, with his first mate Charlie and his budgerigar Fitzwilliam, is accused of stealing the magic items but in reality says that he is trying to find the treasure only to keep it from falling into the hands of the most treacherous villain on the high seas. They are joined by Hillary’s former governess, the proper Miss Eloise Grayson, and Oliver Sanderson, Admiral Westfield’s ex-aide who claims that he has turned to piracy. While sailing on Jasper’s ship the Pigeon to look for the treasure, they end up being chased by this most treacherous villain. Will they find the treasure? And will they find it before the treacherous villain? Or will they all be sent to Davy Jones’ locker?
As to language, there are a few common euphemisms, such as “drat” and especially “blast” which I suppose is used so frequently to make it sound “pirate-y.” While no actual cursing or profanity is found, “swears” and “curses” are mentioned rather often. And there are several references to drinking grog, something else that pirates were apparently wont to do. Some parents may not care for the fact that of the “heroine” it is said that “Hilary intended to be a great many things, and a good little girl was not one of them.” And some people may just not like who the treacherous villain turns out to be. Also, those who object to “magic” in children’s books will want to avoid this one. Another thing that should be taken into consideration is that while there are good guys and bad guys, it is not always easy to tell which is which in this story at times. A couple of other items that someone else pointed out include a child being raised by parents that do not truly care for her and the idea that running away might be an exciting adventure. Otherwise, this is a very engaging story that will appeal to middle school age readers, especially girls. It is obviously intended to be the first of a series about the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates.