Author: Eoin Colfer
Illustrator: Tony Ross
Publisher: Puffin Books
Suggested age group: 7-9 year olds
Synopsis and reasons for selection
Will’s brother Marty is always playing practical jokes. Staying in a cramped holiday caravan in Duncade, the boys spend their days building rafts, swimming and playing practical jokes on each other. One night, Marty tells Will the spooky story of the wicked pirate Captain Crow and his quest for revenge on the brave cabin boy who ended his reign of terror. Will is petrified. According to legend, if Captain Crow’s ghost can’t exact his vengeance on the nine year old cabin boy, then any nine year old boy will do. Is this just another silly supernatural story or is Captain Crow’s ghost out to get Will?
This spooky, mysterious, funny story is 90 pages long and has five chapters, which makes it perfect for the newly fluent reader, who may be feeling confident enough to tackle longer and more challenging books. The original, action packed adventure story will also keep reluctant readers entranced and feverishly turning the pages. The author has an excellent understanding of what family life is like with four brothers who ‘in ten seconds can do more damage than a hurricane’ and captures the playfulness of childhood with humour and wit. Tony Ross’s brilliant black and white line drawings add warmth and depth to the well-spaced text and the story ends on a touching note after an exciting climax.
About the author
Eoin Colfer was born in Wexford, Ireland in 1965 and is a New York Times best-selling author of the blockbuster Artemis Fowl series, which has sold over 12 million copies worldwide. He has also written a number of other books, including The Legend of Spud Murphy and Imaginary Fred.
Hide the title from the children and ask them what they think it might be. Reveal the title and discuss:
- What does the title tell you? What do you think the story will be about?
- What sort of story do you think this will be?
- Do you know any other spooky pirate stories?
- Do you recognise the work of the illustrator?
Ask the children to create a semantic map by noting down as many words associated with ‘fear’ as they can think of and then finding common connections between them.
Circle Thinking Map
Before reading the story, ask the children to write down everything they know about pirates in a circle. They then write where they learned this information in a rectangle surrounding the circle. Ask them to share their ideas with their partner and add any new ideas to their diagram. An example can be found below:
Allow some time for the children to explore the book up to the end of page 6. You can use a paperclip to secure the pages so the children don’t read past this page. If it is possible for the children to have their own copy, they can read at their own pace and write down their responses.
- Is there anything that puzzles them about the book?
- Do they have any questions?
- Is there an illustration they like or dislike?
Use the children’s questions to initiate a discussion – they will be more engaged if it is something they are genuinely interested in. Some questions might be answered easily, whilst others may need to be explored at a later date or after further exploration of the book.
Returning to the text
At all stages, invite the children to share their ideas and responses. Avoid asking too many leading or closed questions. The prompts below are merely intended to be used as supplementary questions. Please select or adapt the questions which you think are most appropriate for the children you are working with. They will ask and answer many of their own questions if they are encouraged to look closely at the text and pictures and discuss their ideas.
- Where do the family spend their holiday every year?
- What are the names of Will’s brothers?
- Do you think Will enjoys going on holiday in a caravan?
- How do you think Will feels about his brothers?
- Why do you think Will mentions his older brother Marty last?
- Does the first chapter make you want to read on? Explain your answer.
- What is the Sprats’ Jig?
- How did Captain Crow die?
- Do you think HP really needs the toilet during the story?
- Can you think of three adjectives to describe the cabin boy?
- Do you think Marty is telling the truth? Can you refer to the text to support your ideas?
- What does Dad say is the reason for the rocks lighting up?
- What time do Marty and Will have to return from the jig by?
- Do you think Marty usually listens to his parents’ advice and warnings?
- Look at page 35. Use a post-it note to record what Marty and Will might be thinking and feeling as they read and sign their contract.
- Explore pages 54-57. How does the author create an atmosphere of tension and impending doom?
- What impression do you think the author is trying to give about the adults in the story so far?
- What is the name of the girl who punches Will on the shoulder?
- Why does Will refuse to take off his pirate costume on page 65?
- Why does Marty call Will ‘Shirley’ when he hands him the lamp from his bike?
- Read up to page 63. What do you think is going to happen next?
- How is Will feeling as he makes his way across the rocks? Use a post-it note to record your ideas.
- Why does Will keep shouting ‘phosphorescence’ at the rocks?
- Did Marty get what he deserved?
- Why can’t Marty sleep?
- Why does HP give up talking like a baby?
- How does Will get his own back on Marty?
- Do you think Marty has learned anything by the end of the story?
- Why do you think Will feels better when he learns that Marty was scared too?
- What do you think the author’s childhood was like?
- Playing pranks on other people is OK because it’s only a bit of fun. Do you agree?
- Have you ever been scared? Why?
- Fear is a good thing and helps to keep us safe. Do you agree?
After reading the story, encourage the children to represent the text using a story map to support the comprehension process.
After Reading – Themes and Cross-curricular links
Ask the children to carry out research into other famous pirates, such as William Kidd, Black Bart, Anne Bonney and Blackbeard. They could also make notes about famous fictional pirates such as Captain Hook and Long John Silver. Challenge the children to create a biography or autobiography of one of these adventurous seafarers.
Message in a Bottle
Invite the children to imagine they are stranded on a hot, barren desert island in the middle of the ocean. Their ship has sunk. They are alone and lost. Ask them to consider:
- What would you miss?
- How would you survive?
- How would you pass your time?
- What is the island like?
Ask the children to write a diary, message in a bottle or letter home on a tea-stained scroll.
Float or sink?
Ask the children to predict whether a range of different objects and materials will float or sink and then test their predictions using a large bowl of water. Challenge the children, in teams, to create their own boat using junk materials such as lolly sticks, corks, coins, sponges and polystyrene bases. Which boat will float? Which boat will travel the furthest? Can the children discuss the forces acting upon their model boat?
Design a flag
Encourage the children to explore the symmetrical properties of a variety of shapes using mirrors. Ask them to design their own pirate flag, using a range of colours and symmetrical patterns. Designs could include hearts, swords, cutlasses, skulls or an hourglass.
Ask the children to create a treasure map, using directional language and co-ordinates. A Bee Bot could be used to move around a large mat, with the children practising giving directions and instructions. You could also introduce 4 figure grid references to older children.
Celebrated every September 19th, ‘International Talk Like a Pirate Day’ is a fun way for young swashbucklers to dress up, grab an eyepatch, wear a parrot and yell ‘Shiver me timbers!’ and ‘Walk the plank!’ This is a great opportunity for the children to learn some pirate language while developing their speaking and listening skills.
This book guide was created by Ian Eagleton
Copyright Just Imagine Story Centre Ltd 2016
All rights reserved
You may print and use this guide in the classroom. You may not reproduce it in any other format, without permission.