A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Vicki Cobb (Science Experiments You Can Eat), Matt Faulkner (Independent Dames) and Libby Gleeson (Half a World Away).
- Birthday greetings to fictional characters Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series and Slimey the Worm from Sesame Street.
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Rachel Field (1894-1942), Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, Prayer for a Child, Calico Bush; Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) Arthur Rackham Fairy Book; Jim Haskins (1941-2005), Get on Board: The Story of the Underground Railroad, and William Golding (1911-1993) The Lord of the Flies.
- Mickey Mouse makes his screen debut in Steamboat Willie at Colony Theater, New York City, in 1928.
I have been waiting for September 19 all year. Itâ€™s International Talk Like a Pirate Day! What an inspired idea for a celebration. Last year, all my Facebook friends went nutty with this one!Â Â I can hardly wait to see “Pirate speak” twitters this year.
Pirate lore for children, however, tends to be a bit formulaic. After Robert Louis Stevensonâ€™s Treasure Island and James Barrieâ€™s Peter Pan set the parameters, most pirate books have followed a similar script. But not our book of the day, Larklight by Philip Reeve. In the fertile mind of the man who wrote The Hungry Cities chronicles, pirates have been combined with some surprising elements. The premise sentence for Reeveâ€™s romp in the park, Larklight, would read simply: What if space travel had been invented when the British Empire was in full swing? Then they, and not those upstart Americans, would start colonizing space. This premise allows Reeve to combine alternate history, steam punk, real historical events, adventure, travel, and yes, piratesâ€”not on the high seas but in space.
At the beginning of the saga, Art and his sister Myrtle, the two narrators, live with their scientist father at Larklight, a space outpost just beyond the moon in the reign of Queen Victoria. When giant spiders attack their home and appear to have killed their father, Art and Myrtle fleeâ€”only to be rescued by Jack Havock, a space pirate who saves them from the vicious Potter moth. Jack has a grudge against the British Empire and travels with a makeshift crew of creatures from various locations in the solar system. But no peg leg for our boy; he even develops a crush on Myrtle.
From there, the story careens from one exciting Star Wars-type chase to another until the band ends up trying to foil a mad scientist, intent on destroying much of the universe. They get separated and are brought back together again in a smashing finale! Literally smashing. For it turns out that the Crystal Palace of the 1851 Great Exhibition can walk and is being controlled by the scientist.
Everything in this imaginative work of fantasy and science fiction is not only fun but also makes the reader long to explore space with Jackâ€™s band. I myself, my pirate days long over, simply want one more of Reeveâ€™s attractive inventions, the hoverhog, a flying animal that scoops up all the dirt, dust, and crumbs of a home. In Larklight the combination of death-defying adventure and Victorian propriety is both hilarious and completely satisfying. Before going on to the sequel, our hero Art sits down to a â€śhot buttered muffin and a nice cup of tea.â€ť
However you celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I hopeÂ you will pick up this gem. In the childrenâ€™s book field today, Philip Reeve is one of our most creative wordsmiths who always writes for his audience. You donâ€™t want to miss him.
Hereâ€™s a passage from Larklight:
â€śHow tiresome,â€ť Mother complained, looking down at the globules of spider blood which were tumbling through the air, bursting against the ceiling and soaking into the carpet. â€śAs soon as we have saved the Solar System, Art, we shall have to redecorate.â€ť
And then, the boom of pistols and the clash of cutlass against spider claws began to echo down the stairwells from the hall, where Jack and the others were trying to hold off the boarding party from the First Oneâ€™s ship. At the same moment we heard whisperings and leggy scrabblings emerging from the air shaft. The spider which Mother had bested must have climbed off to find reinforcements from among the other creatures left to guard our home, and now they were returning!
Originally posted September 19, 2011. Updated for .