August 3, 2012

Lilly and the Pirates

LILLY AND THE PIRATES by Phyllis Root; Illustrated by Rob Shepperson (Boyds Mills Press, 2010)
GENRE: Adventure

REVIEW: Lilly worries. She worries a lot. What if a yodeler causes an avalanche? What if her parents get swept out to sea? She worries to keep disaster at bay, writing down her concerns in her worry book and hoping for the best - until her scientist parents go on an expedition to the Shipwreck Islands to study the frangipani fruit fly, leaving Lilly behind. When their boat wrecks on the reefs, it is up to Lilly to rescue them by overcoming her fear of the sea and finding the hidden island, all while outsmarting a bunch of pirates. She even learns not to worry - at least, not quite so much. Root's lean, well-paced chapter book is exciting and gently silly (the scholar pirate swears by shouting E=MC2!), while Lilly herself is an honest of an anxious child. Her preventative worrying will be familiar to any young worrier, and though slightly over the top, Root treats her with understanding and respect, all while allowing Lilly to overcome her worries in situationally appropriate, intuitive ways. Encouraging without being preachy, Lilly and the Pirates is a hidden gem - a real buried treasure!

OPINION: Lilly and the Pirates is a quick and extremely charming read. Easy to overlook (it deals with classic themes in classic ways), it still manages to feel fresh and modern. Shepperson's illustrations are great (especially the one of Lilly underwater, debating whether or not to let her worry book go so she can float to the surface), lending Root's tale an air of jaunty, piratical fun. Though it may require some blatant pushing at first, it's popularity is likely to grow through sheer word of mouth.

IDEAS: An unexpected though excellent addition to a pirate, adventure or even humor display. Even more directly, however, it's a wonderful recommendation for kids prone to worry or anxiety who are looking for a genuinely fun and encouraging adventure. In addition, it's a great book for younger adolescents or even grade school kids to read with their parents - especially given the lovely relationship between Lilly and her parents paired with her ability to strike out on her own independently at the end of the book while still loving them.

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