“The Crustacean Carnival of Fear”
The Pirate Captain, fresh from an adventure battling Black Bellamy, takes his crew ashore in London, where he is mistaken for Karl Marx, on account of his enormous flowing beard, and arrested. Friedrich Engels comes to his rescue on the condition that the Pirate Captain takes up his business proposition…
I can’t decide whether this is a children’s book or not. On the one hand, the tone seems very much intended for children, and there are basic explanations of historical events/cultural points which appear pitched at an 8-10-year-old level; on the other hand, there are sly cultural references which would go sailing over kids’ heads and are, I suspect, included for the benefit of the weary adult reading the book with a child. I gave up on it after 78 pages not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because it was just too basic and I lost some patience.
The pirates are whimsically characterized (“the pirate in green”, “the pirate with long legs”, “the albino pirate”, “the pirate with a scarf”) and the Pirate Captain is fun; proud and charismatic, a bit of a show-off. Jennifer proves to be somewhat of a Hermionic (can I claim creation of that word?) character in that she seems to be there to push the Pirate Captain back into line so that he can stay boisterously in character but still progress the plot, but she’s likeable enough.
Defoe writes London cleverly with amusing suggestions (a monkey turns thattriangular sign outside Scotland Yard?) and there are some sparky comments on celebrity, boring speeches and various other themes generally missing from children’s books.