The best children’s books for perfectly piratey storytimes

Charlotte Gunnufson Author Of Prince and Pirate
By Charlotte Gunnufson

Who am I?

I’m the author of funny-bone tickling and heartwarming picture books, Halloween Hustle and Prince and Pirate. My newest book, Dream Submarine, is a lyrical bedtime story that blends fiction and nonfiction and invites young readers on a journey through the world's oceans (Candlewick, 2024). Language Arts teacher turned writer, I'm passionate about literacy and love visiting schools and libraries to connect with my favorite people—kids!  My books and all the perfectly piratey tales on this list are best when read aloud!


I wrote...

Prince and Pirate

By Charlotte Gunnufson, Mike Lowery (illustrator),

Book cover of Prince and Pirate

What is my book about?

Shiver me tailfin! When two little fish with big personalities have to share the same tank, there are rough seas ahead! Snooty Prince is horrified to find this cheeky cod trespassing in his kingdom. Rowdy Pirate is sure this royal hiney has come to plunder his treasure. 

The battle royale seems doomed to end in a scurvy stalemate—until a sweet surprise convinces them to find a way to get along. In its starred review, Kirkus praises the book for its humor, heart, sitcom silliness, and storytime potential.

The books I picked & why

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The Pirates Are Coming!

By John Condon, Matt Hunt (illustrator),

Book cover of The Pirates Are Coming!

Why this book?

I adore this piratey parody of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." As a parent and former teacher, I’ve had the privilege of reading to kids for decades. This picture book is ideal for a giggly good storytime. I especially appreciate how the refrain “The pirates are coming! Quick! Everybody hide!” builds suspense (and silliness!) and creates lots of opportunities for kids to make predictions about what sort of ship is actually out on the horizon. Clever and comedic illustrations amp up the fun.


Pirate Jack Gets Dressed

By Nancy Raines Day, Allison Black (illustrator),

Book cover of Pirate Jack Gets Dressed

Why this book?

A hearty and slightly hapless pirate named Jack makes getting dressed an adventure! I believe the best picture books engage young readers, and I love the way Jack invites kids into the story, encouraging them to identify colors from gray long johns and pink socks to gold earrings and—surprise!—a green parrot. Written in rhyme with the perfect amount of piratey lingo, this book is best when read aloud. Illustrations provide a treasure trove of funny details for kids to discover.


Rufus Goes to Sea

By Kim T. Griswell, Valeri Gorbachev (illustrator),

Book cover of Rufus Goes to Sea

Why this book?

“Arrrh! No pigs on pirate ships!” growls Captain Wibblyshins when Rufus, a perky little pig with a backpack full of books, tries to board the Scurvy Dog. If you enjoy puns and fun-to-say phrases (like “pigs play on the poop deck” and “picnic in the crow’s nest”) as much as I do, you’re going to enjoy this book. Kids of all ages will root for Rufus as he creatively convinces everyone that he’s an excellent addition to the crew. Ink and watercolor illustrations are entertaining and endearing.


It's Not a School Bus, It's a Pirate Ship

By Mickey Rapkin, Teresa Martínez (illustrator),

Book cover of It's Not a School Bus, It's a Pirate Ship

Why this book?

When a little boy boards the school bus for the very first time, he’s terrified—until the bus driver whispers, “This isn’t a school bus, it’s a pirate ship!” I think it’s terrific when stories sweep readers in and invite them to use their imagination. Equally terrific is the way the characters join together to turn first-day jitters into a journey on the high seas. Illustrations, cleverly inspired by children’s artwork (which I love!), are the perfect partner for this kid-centric story


Trick Arrr Treat: A Pirate Halloween

By Leslie Kimmelman, Jorge Monlongo (illustrator),

Book cover of Trick Arrr Treat: A Pirate Halloween

Why this book?

I recommend this raucous tale because it combines two kid favorites (and, let’s be honest, two of my favorites): pirates and Halloween! I thoroughly enjoyed the stomping, clomping, romping rhyme and the refrain young readers will eagerly repeat—“We be pirates. Trick arrr treat!” The fact that the book features an inclusive cast of characters is an added bonus. All these things combine to make this book a marvelous choice for a fun, engaging pirate or Halloween-themed storytime.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Pirates, pigs, and piracy?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Pirates, pigs, and piracy.

Pirates Explore 54 books about Pirates
Pigs Explore 13 books about pigs
Piracy Explore 95 books about piracy

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Under the Black Flag, How I Became a Pirate, and Bold in Her Breeches if you like this list.