Little Nicholas Nosh is left at home with babysitter, Gretta, while his pirate family go to sea, but, predictably enough, it is he who saves his family when they are held to ransom by the ferocious Red Beard. Gretta’s sticky toffee comes in handy for repairs to the worm holes in the family’s second-best ship, and off Nicholas sails in pursuit of Red Beard and his vessel, the Black Bog. Once more, Gretta’s sturdy cooking efforts come in handy when there is a shortage of cannon balls. Stolid caramel puddings fired from all cannons splatter in slimy messes all over the deck of the Black Bog, sticking its sails together, and gluing Red Beard to the deck, enabling Nicholas to free his family and sink the Black Bog.
In a lively tale of slight defeating might, Jellett’s illustrations are big and bright, ideal for group storytelling. They capture the action in the story and interact well with the text, though not adding much to the base narrative. Some adults may be concerned that Nicholas cuts off Red Beard’s toe, and that the crew of the Black Bog are left in the sea when Nicholas sinks the ship. But then, that’s a hazard of the pirate life.