In this adventure book for children, a tiny ship-in-a-bottle, on a dusty shelf at the back of a ramshackle junk shop, plays host to a comical collective of miniature pirates.
They may have jaunty tricorne hats, oversized doublets and questionable personal hygiene, but Chris Mould’s ‘pocket pirates’ have very little in common with classic swashbuckling favourites such as Captain Hook or Jack Sparrow. They don’t swash-buckle or plunder, they don’t bury treasure and they don’t maraud about the seven seas. In fact, they don’t even sail their ship! Despite this departure from the stereotype, there is plenty to enjoy about these Lilliputian heroes.
When hunger forces Captain Crabsticks and his crew out from the safety and security of their ship, they are suddenly swept into a drain and onto a subterranean adventure. Faced with fearsome insects, sinister rodents and, worst of all, giant brown floaters from local lavatories, the pocket pirates’ journey home is anything but plain sailing.
It’s impossible not to compare any literary characters of these pirates’ size to The Borrowers. However, though Captain Crabsticks’ darning needle sword is a charming defence against a ferocious beetle, there are not nearly enough ingenious miniscule details of this nature, which made Mary Norton’s masterpiece so memorable.
Pocket Pirates has enough toilet humour to set children giggling and ample adventure to sustain their interest throughout this short novel, though the crew may need to take their ship out of the bottle if they are to find new grounds for excitement in future episodes.