Thursday, 4 June 2015

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks: the Pirate's Curse by Kristina Stephenson reviewed by Julia Jones

 Sir Charlie Stinky Socks: the Pirate's Curse passed the grandchild test. My oldest granddaughter, aged 7, chose it for our teatime read as she'd already enjoyed another in this series. She took the lead in turning the pages, opening the giant flaps and pointing out details of the plot and jokes. The varied typefaces and sizes made it easy for her beginner-reader brother to join in and the lively story line frequently attracted the attention of the third child who was sitting on the other side of the table absorbed in a project of her own.

It's a simple, shapely narrative. "Once upon a time there was a bottle bobbing out on the big blue sea...a sea filled with pirates and magical mermaids. Oh, and a man-eating monster!"  Key words such as pirates, magical mermaids and man-eating monster all have their their distinctive type faces and there are frequent typographical jokes – such as increasing the type size for the word big and making the bs in bobbing undulate. These were pleasurable in themselves and a boost for shared reading.

The bottle contains the single word HELP! It goes on bobbing for six long years before it is discovered by Sir Charlie. He and his good grey mare and his faithful cat, Envelope, gallop into action and leap on board the pirate ship Black Toenail, captained by the terrifying Burnt Beard. There are adventures and a certain amount of ship-board humour – such as the moment that the cat and the horse catch sight of Burnt Beard's bottom. (A word that rarely fails to raise a teatime giggle.)

That's the general level of humour in Stinky Socks. Its strength lies in its story-telling. Captain Burnt Beard never really wanted to be a pirate, you see. The discovery of his hidden secret is neatly managed and appealing.All the children enjoyed this book and so did I. The drawings are colourful and cartoony and there's a happy ending in a cake shop "beside the big blue sea" where the pirates are finally at liberty to follow their true vocations.

This review first appeared on The Bookbag site