This book brings the important issue of wild animal poaching and primate incarceration to an impressionable audience. I’m not convinced it really succeeds, despite the Newbery award. It’s written for young readers – mid elementary school – and at an easy level. Too easy, I think. I think it both scares kids and minimizes how truly awful life has been for isolated animals in cages. I hope it will encourage kids to see how they might be able to live more compassionately.
So, if you love Daniel Handler and Lemony Snicket (and I do) there is all kinds of stuff to like in the phrasing and the weirdness and the circular storytelling and the hiding things from the reader. Handler’s narrator also spends some time speaking directly to the readers, making fun of 21st century life, modern genteel racism, and television, much the way Snicket gave vocabulary lessons to readers in A Series of Unfortunate Events.
But I still don’t know what to think about We Are Pirates. Do I like it? Am I sorry I spent these past few days with it?
Gwen is awesome. She 14, annoyed with her parents, split from her best friend (who was rotten, anyway), and wanting adventure and freedom from her hovering parents. She cooks up a scheme with the daughter of her dentist and sets off in ways she could not have imagined. Gwen and Amber and Mayoparo and the Captain are riveting, personable, interesting! (And horrifying.)
Phil Needles, Gwen’s dad, is boring, pathetic, creepy, and useless. Did Gwen write his chapters of the book? I hope so. If Handler wanted us to sympathize with him well, it’s impossible. In fact, his half of the book can be skipped and you will not miss it.