The Pirates of Scurvy Sands – review

Written and Illustrated by Jonny Duddle

Published by Templar Books ISBN: 978-1-78370-408-8

Reviewed by Karl Andy Foster

Ahoy you scurvy dogs! Every pirate tale needs a map and the end papers provide us with just that. Where did Mad Jack McMuddle bury his treasure chests? The clues are all there if you take your time and have a compass at the ready.

The Jolley-Rodgers are back and they are in need of a holiday. Jim Lad wants his pen friend Matilda to join them. After a stop at Dull-on-Sea to collect her they travel the ocean waves for three days to land at Scurvy Sands holiday resort for Pirate folk. There is a hearty welcome from Cap’n Ollie Day but all is not well. This is where Matilda faces the challenge of being accepted since she is deemed a Landlubber. Matilda’s presence on the Island does not bring out the best in the other residents. In the Playground and at the Tavern there are rumblings of discontent. Can she pass the Pirate Test?

Jonny Duddle’s illustrations are detailed with strong character development that is matched by a credible Pirate family. The control of the light and ambience on the pages adds to this. The rose and lilac tinted tropical skies towards the end of the book are beautifully realized. The high quality printing used in this book means that the saturated colours are enriched by the matt paper stock. His digital drawings are sensitively handled and powerfully rendered whether it be as wood, stone or metal.

It is a story teaming with callbacks to his Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize winning The Pirates Next Door and includes subtle references to his other published work. He is able to create locations that evoke 1950’s seaside adventures and the longing that comes to you when you scan the horizon.

The text of the story structure is in rhyming couplets that propel the narrative forward and draw us into Matilda’s story arc. Rich in colour, huge in personality and with speaking parts for the almost the entire cast Duddle has a created a world unlike any other. It is at times familiar, but at the same time unique and fully fleshed out in 3 dimensions. So furl the sails! Shake out the reef and jump right in!

12th April 2018

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