Review Blog

May 18 2017

1, 2, pirate stew by Kylie Howarth

cover image

Five Mile Press, 2017. ISBN 9781760403201
(Ages: 2-5) Rhyme. Imagination. Play. Pirates. Counting. From the Australian author and illustrator of the popular Fish jam, comes this playful counting book following the same metre as the nursery rhyme 'One, two, buckle my shoe'. As two children engage in imaginary pirate play with only their pets and a cardboard box as props, the book counts from 1-22 (e.g. '1, 2, round up the crew. 3, 4, now grab an oar'). Vivid and detailed drawings depict their adventures as they really are (rather than how it looks in their imagination). Minimal background illustration allows block colours to set the scene of the imaginative play (for example, a carefully constructed blue frame gives the appearance of the children wading in water). Tufts of outlined grass take on the illusion of waves. The children are large, highlighting their facial expressions. The pet dog and chook also play lead roles, with the dog helping the pirate ship to come alive. When being pulled along in the ship by the dog they uproot half the carrots in the vegetable garden (much to their mother's dismay). The words of the story depict what is happening in the play but the pictures also give extra information (for example, '11, 12... we dig and delve' shows the children digging up and collecting the scattered carrots and '15, 16, scrub deck, quick clean' shows mum and dad helping them to wash their hands). The illustrations also show them opening the treasure chest to find their treasure gone. Oh well, dinnertime. What's in the pirate stew? Carrots of course!
This book encourages imaginative play as well as discussion around what the children have used to create props (cardboard box with cut out fish swimming from the end for a boat, plastic bottles tied to broom handles for oars, a newspaper hat). It also includes diverse pirate language (crew, marooned, deck, fort) and other unusual words (delve, bait, crate). Children will enjoy mimicking what they have seen in the book and getting ideas for their own play. On the surface this is a simple counting book, but on a deeper level it depicts wholesome family life (playing outdoors without fancy toys, productive gardening and playing together). It is especially heartening to see Dad join in the play. A perfect story for reading aloud to young ones.
Nicole Nelson

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