The best books about pirates and children

Who am I?

Peter Pan was the first book I remember being read to me when I was four. At the age of thirty-two, I discovered the real J.M. Barrie. I read everything I could of Barrie’s and even wrote a one-person play about him. This led me to discover R.L. Stevenson, Treasure Island, and the world of (fictional) pirates. On a visit my wife and I made to Robinson Crusoe Island, I came to believe (through deductive logic and vivid imagination) that this was the three-dimensional embodiment of Neverland. Barrie always envisioned himself as Hook, and though I longed to be Peter, I fear that my soul was a pirate’s soul. Hence Hook’s Tale. 


I wrote...

Book cover of Hook's Tale: Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself

What is my book about?

The subtitle says it all. Hook’s Tale concerns the autobiographical adventures of a 14-year-old boy (and later infamous pirate) in search of his lost father. He discovers a treasure map left to him by his missing parent which leads him to a mysterious archipelago where people do not age and from which there appears to be no escape. There he befriends a marooned buccaneer with a scythe, adopts a baby crocodile he names Daisy, and encounters a boy named Peter who has no understanding of Time. He battles monsters, falls in love with a princess, loses a hand, and eventually discovers the unexpected treasure hidden in this astonishing place. Eventually, he comes to understand the importance of growing up, growing old, and accepting mortality. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Peter and Wendy

John Leonard Pielmeier Why did I love this book?

How’s this for an opening? “All children, except one, grow up... You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.” I read this and I was hooked. (Pun intended.) Believe me, this is not just a children’s book. Barrie wrote this novel several years after his play Peter Pan was first produced (in fact the book is sometimes retitled Peter Pan) and when I discovered it, it took me places (philosophically and emotionally) that the play never dreamed of. It’s beautifully written, intensely funny, and as imaginative a piece of literature as you’ll ever find. Needless to say, it inspired me to write my book, and though Captain James Hook despises this book, the play, and the author, I hold no such prejudices. A pure joy!

By James Matthew Barrie,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Peter and Wendy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up or Peter and Wendy is J. M. Barrie's most famous work, in the form of a 1904 play and a 1911 novel. Both versions tell the story of Peter Pan, a mischievous yet innocent little boy who can fly, and has many adventures on the island of Neverland that is inhabited by mermaids, fairies, Native Americans and pirates. Peter has many stories involving Wendy Darling and her two brothers, his fairy Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys, and the pirate Captain Hook. The play and novel were inspired by Barrie's friendship with…


Book cover of Treasure Island

John Leonard Pielmeier Why did I love this book?

This is the Ur-book of all literature concerning pirates and children. It’s a book that started out as a map, and I for one love maps. Stevenson drew the map when making up an adventure story to tell his stepson Lloyd Osborne, and he eventually turned the map and the story into this literary masterpiece. We all know the tale – Jim Hawkins, a semi-orphaned Scottish lad, heads off to sea under the charge of a delightful father figure by the name of Long John Silver, a one-legged sea-cook who turns out to be not quite as delightful as the boy first imagined. Inspired by Robinson Crusoe it, in turn, inspired Barrie’s Peter Pan and in its own way (semi-spoiler-alert!) my book.

It’s dark (the Black Spot!), adventurous (a pirate’s buried treasure), funny (the marooned Ben Gunn), but best of all it’s more complex than you probably remember. The heart and soul of it is Long John Silver, one of the vilest - and most endearing - villains of all times. We love him, and then we hate him, and then we fear him, and always we wish him well. Stevenson is one of my favorite authors - I’ve visited his home in Western Samoa and climbed to his gravesite on a mountaintop there – and his books line my library shelves. He’s an inspiration to any writer because he knows how to tell a tale with richness and imagination and at a pace that can leave you breathless. But if you only read one of his masterworks, make it this one!

By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Treasure Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Penguin presents the audio CD edition of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Following the demise of bloodthirsty buccaneer Captain Flint, young Jim Hawkins finds himself with the key to a fortune. For he has discovered a map that will lead him to the fabled Treasure Island. But a host of villains, wild beasts and deadly savages stand between him and the stash of gold. Not to mention the most infamous pirate ever to sail the high seas . . .


Book cover of A High Wind in Jamaica

John Leonard Pielmeier Why did I love this book?

I read this book on someone else’s recommendation – I remembered seeing the movie some years back and enjoying it – but what I expected to be a children’s adventure book, suitable for all ages, was anything but that. A hurricane destroys a plantation in Jamaica and the owners of the plantation decide to send their five children on a merchant ship back to England where, the parents assume, the children will be safe from harm. But the ship is captured by pirates, and there the adventure begins. Gradually the book becomes darker and bloodier, and this growing darkness is what makes this novel so great. It chilled me, to say the least, and I couldn’t put it down. It's a book about growing up, but the growing up that these children experience is definitely not to be envied. Modern Library named it one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Oh yeah.  

By Richard Hughes,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked A High Wind in Jamaica as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the high seas of the Caribbean, a family of English children is set loose - sent by their parents from their home in Jamaica to receive the civilising effects of England. When their ship is captured by pirates, the thrilling cruise continues as the children transfer their affections from one batch of sailors to another. Innocence is their protection, but as life in the care of pirates reveals its dangers, the events which unfold begin to take on a savagely detached quality.


Book cover of J. M. Barrie & the Lost Boys

John Leonard Pielmeier Why did I love this book?

Okay, this isn’t exactly about pirates, but it is about children who play at pirating and whose summer adventures with an author named Barrie inspired him to write his play Peter Pan. The children were George, Jack, Peter (and later Michael and Nico) Llewelyn-Davis, and they became the center of Barrie’s creative life. “I have no recollection of having written Peter Pan,” he later wrote. “He belongs rather to the five without whom he never would have existed and the play is streaky with them still. I suppose I made him by rubbing the five of them violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame. That is all he is, the spark I got from my boys.”

When I first read this book I had to put it down at the end of nearly every chapter – because I was sobbing and my tears made it impossible to make out the words on the next page. It inspired me to write a one-person play about Barrie, to visit Barrie's birthplace, and to surround myself with all things Barrie – which of course made the writing of my book so effortless. This is not only an exquiste biography of Barrie but also a narrative about the creation of a masterpiece. And the illustrations – mostly photographs richly scattered throughout – are fantastic.

By Andrew Birkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked J. M. Barrie & the Lost Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An enchanting biography of J. M. Barrie, the man who created Peter Pan and his Lost Boys

"For an insightful exploration of Barrie and the boys who inspired him, nothing rivals [this book]."-Norman Allen, Smithsonian Magazine

J. M. Barrie, Victorian novelist, playwright, and author of Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, led a life almost as magical and interesting as as his famous creation. Childless in his marriage, Barrie grew close to the five young boys of the Llewelyn Davies family, ultimately becoming their guardian and devoted surrogate father when they were orphaned. Andrew Birkin draws extensively…


Book cover of Doctor Dogbody's Leg (Heart of Oak Sea Classics Series)

John Leonard Pielmeier Why did I love this book?

This book is about neither pirates nor children, but it belongs on a list about pirates and children nonetheless. It’s certainly a book that children aged eight to eighty (or older) can enjoy, and because the protagonist is a one-legged seaman (Doctor Dogbody) who embodies the spirit of a one-legged pirate (Long John Silver) and a one-handed pirate (Captain James Hook) it deserves mention. Doctor Dogbody is a ship’s surgeon who likes his tipple, and when he’s drained his pint (or two or three) he is happy to tell the tale of how he lost his leg. And every time he tells the tale it’s a completely different saga, each saga more preposterous than the last. This is a laugh-out-loud book which I first discovered via the recommendation of a mountaineer, who would read each chapter aloud to his tent-mates at night while marooned in a snowstorm on the side of some vertiginous peak. Their laughter, presumably, kept them warm. There are ten chapters, and therefore ten explanations of leg-loss, and ten encounters with the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Catherine the Great, Horatio Nelson, and others. This book too inspired me – to laughter. Read and enjoy. 

By James N. Hall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Doctor Dogbody's Leg (Heart of Oak Sea Classics Series) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ripping sea yarns from the creator of Mutiny on the Bounty.

James Norman Hall is best known as the co-author of the classic Bounty trilogy. In his later years, his favorite work was writing the tales spun by Dr. Dogbody, a peg-legged old salt who never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. Doctor Dogbody's tales vividly recreate the Napoleonic Wars, and delight with broad comedy, rollicking naval adventure, and characters that will live on in the reader's memory.


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At What Cost, Silence?

By Karen Lynne Klink,

Book cover of At What Cost, Silence?

Karen Lynne Klink Author Of At What Cost, Silence?

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Child abuse survivor Reader Adventure traveler Animal lover

Karen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Secrets, misunderstandings, and a plethora of family conflicts abound in this historical novel set along the Brazos River in antebellum Washington County, East Texas.

It is a compelling story of two neighboring plantation families and a few of the enslaved people who serve them. These two plantations are a microcosm of a country on the brink of war, encompassing a variety of issues: love and friendship between men, relationships between fathers and sons, sibling rivalry, slavery, and the position of women in society.

At What Cost, Silence?

By Karen Lynne Klink,

What is this book about?

Adrien Villere suspects he is not like other boys. For years, he desperately locks away his feelings and fears-but eventually, tragedy and loss drive him to seeking solace from his mentor, a young neighbor Jacob Hart. Jacob's betrayal of Adrien's trust, however, results in secret abuse, setting off a chain of actions from which neither Adrien's wise sister, Bernadette, nor his closest friend, Isaac, can turn him.

At What Cost, Silence presents two contrasting plantation families in a society where strict rules of belief and behavior are clear, and public opinion can shape an entire life. Centerstage are the Villeres,…


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